Charlie Lankester and the Mojo Killers at O2 Islington
There’s an odd atmosphere that permeates through Charlie Lankester’s performance at the O2 Islington, fluctuating between a deep sadness and something palpably life-affirming. It’s not something that stems from these blues-infused tales of hard living, gutter-strewn down-and-outs, and lowlifes, but rather something that is wound inherently into this evening’s performance.
Just before the recording of his latest album Song in a Minor Key, Charlie was diagnosed with incurable cancer. This is the final date on his current UK tour and there are no dates lined up in the future. This weighs heavy over a concert that feels like a finality in many ways, not just to his current tour run, but possibly to his music. Yet, the band exudes so much energy and play with such flair that they display a real sense of hope: defiance in the face of a daunting and inevitable conclusion to this story.
The music itself is relentless waves of razor wire blues licks and honky tonk piano. Charlie’s gutteral growl is reminiscent of a less cartoony version of a young Tom Waits, and on tracks like Brixton Road and recent single The Spinning of The Wheel he covers similar topics to his peer: greasy-haired bad men and drunken brawls in no-good parts of the city. It’s an engaging listen and he’s a charismatic and powerful storyteller, infusing wit and humour into these broody tales of morality.
But it’s the heart-breaking context that raises the performance above and beyond what at times sounds like nothing more than a back room pub band. Given his condition, it’s incredible that he’s out on stage and playing at all, let alone playing with such verve. As Charlie leaves the stage to rapturous applause, there’s a melancholy that remains. It’s wholly possible that this record could be the man’s swansong, yet his insistence and dedication to his music in the face of such a grim future is truly inspiring.
Photos: Dimitris Amvrazis
Watch the video for Brixton Road below: