The trio known as Little Barrie, comprising Barrie Cadogan (guitar and vocals), Lewis Wharton (bass) and Virgil Howe (drums) took to the stage last night upstairs at Oslo in Hackney, the occasion the final gig of their UK tour which has seen them zigzagging across the country and whipping up fervour in distant parts of these isles. And tonight was no different. The support act, the San Diego three-piece The Schizophonics split the air as the lead singer, a blur of St Vitus dance and wielding his guitar like a baseball bat helped bake the club while executing James Brown splits and blindfolding himself with his own hair. “It ain’t cool to be American right now, we’re from the land of idiots,” he intoned. Quite.
And as they departed, the faithful still came drifting in out of the December night for Little Barrie. The band appeared at 10pm, Barrie stage right, his frame whipped tight in dark denim and kicking off proceedings with ‘Pauline’, a song which has become something of an anthem for the band.
They’re an intuitive trio, classic in purpose and steeped in Americana and making a sound quite unlike any other in the UK and Europe today. They possess a rare oneness of purpose and it’s easy to draw creative parallels with the Jimi Hendrix Experience. There too exists a sound design that belongs to Barrie alone. It goes beyond mere songs, each song building beyond the previous one as he alters the aural textures that power through the amps, and with Virgil, the band’s dervish behind the drum kit – sounding tonight like Lalo Schifrin’s drummer Stan Levey – his jazz shuffle transformed ‘Eyes Were Young’ (Shadow, 2014) from a rock work out into something of an electric incantation.
With a healthy smattering of new tracks like ‘I.5.C.A’ getting even the most straight-necked stiffs rocking in their David Prestons, it only took a track like ‘Tip It Over’ to send a thrill through the crowd, Barrie at times wrenching an almost Ashkenazi violin sound from his guitar as Lewis looked on impassively, nimble and rock solid on bass. With a new LP out in March next year and with ever new members joining the ranks of fans, this band remains buoyant and vital, their peerless playing suffused with real joy. Time, therefore, to paraphrase Mr Cadogan, will tell exactly how they lasted.