Norman Watt-Roy at Rough Trade East
Everyone knows of Ian Dury and the Blockheads, the 70s band that brought us such hits as Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll and What a Waste. But less people may know of the bassist from the Blockheads, Norman Watt-Roy. The man who was behind the bass line of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s Relax, many of Nick Cave’s solo live shows, as well as being a member of Wilko Johnson’s band and performing with some of the members of Madness. This infamous face graced the record store Rough Trade East with his presence for a one-off, free, intimate gig in order to promote his recently released, semi-autobiographical debut solo album Faith & Grace (cockney rhyming slang for bass).
The evening’s atmosphere is definitely chilled. If anyone has had the pleasure of listening to Faith & Grace they will understand. It is an attempt to crossover jazz and funk, and it works, this is something Watt-Roy is able to relay to his audience. Only armed with his bass guitar and his backing band, he goes through tracks from his albums but with a few special surprises towards the end. One of these surprises is his cover of his own song Billericay Dickie. He takes the rough, fast-paced, sexually orientated original and turns it into a smooth, slow and sexual jazz tune that excites the audience.
As you can imagine from a man who has been a bass player all his life, the focus is on his impressive bass lines. They go right through you, keeping your attention on him, even when there is the famous Wilko Johnson performing right next to him. This is a man who knows his trade and each song is as inviting and immersive as the last. However, with quite a number of instrumentals it does make you question if it would be more fitting to be in a classy cocktail bar, especially as the music is immensely relaxing. But it definitely gets the audience up and moving.
Overall, Norman Watt-Roy shows how he is more than just a Blockhead, he is an incredible bassist and producer, and has created a batch of songs that sound as good on record as they do live. If anything, at the ripe old age of 62, it makes you wonder why he hasn’t had a solo venture before.
Photos: Laramie Shubber
For further information about Faith & Grace and future Rough Trade events visit the venue’s website here.
Watch the video for the original version of Billericay Dickie here: