With the feel of a working man’s club straight from Only Fools and Horses, the 100 Club fails to live up to its legendary status. It should have a wonky snooker table and a fuzzy wood effect TV high in the corner, permanently tuned in to the darts, or Corrie for the ladies. But legendary it is and the home of punk and jazz still has the kudos to impress-it’s still the venue to play.
Hosting an EP launch there is a bold step, and statement of Van Susans intent. They expect to be returning to the 100 Club for nostalgic fan-club only gigs after playing to huge crowds the world over; Wembley yeah we’ll have that. They are bold, and with tonight’s performance their confidence is not misplaced.
Echoing a lone piper, a single guitarist comes on stage and starts frantic wah-wah shredding in front of an already huge and appreciative fanbase, rapturous as the remaining five members come on stage. It’s a bit showy, but whacks of professionalism. The Van Susans opener, ‘Bricks not Sticks or Straw’ is a folky college rock take on Breakfast at Tiffany’s, a catchy barnstorming track which kicks their melodic song writing straight to the fore.
As they continue it’s clear there’s a strong Waterboys and classic Celtic rock element to their music. There’s a feel of an early 90’s flouncy shirt and waistcoat to their songs, but with a gritty urbanism of a folk Bruce Springsteen. The Boss’ mainstream moments can be heard on ‘Old Flames’ which panders towards, fellow New Jersey folk-punks, The Gaslight Anthem.
The South London six-piece can certainly bring folk into the stadium in a way Mumford and Sons would shun. They continue with the acoustic railroad of ‘Get Up Get out’ a track akin to Del Amitri jamming with Incubus with Olly’s infectious voice sweeping through the dancing crowd. Bizarrely they break for a guitar and fiddle duet, which although good and shows they can play fast just sounds like a cliché’d Riverdance novelty pleaser.
Melodic rock is a genre which often sounds tired and but with the lead track to the We Could Be Scenery EP- ‘Cha Cha Bang’ The Van Susans have given it a youthful vigour and a new hope. It’s incredibly catchy chorus and handclaps propels them to the arena anthems of the Levellers during their ‘One Way’ peak. The sell-out crowd, who have been rousing and dancing throughout, have been rewarded for showing early faith in The Van Susans.
At the end of their set the six piece join together of a bow at the front of the stage in unashamed rock pretentions which are fully deserved. The Van Susans have crafted the unique party atmosphere of The Commitments hell bent on kicking through the doors of Americana, which along with Frank Turner signals a revival of great British songs for the common man. Their brand of stadium Celtic folk is a brave move for a modern band, especially in one so young, but they pull it off with melodic aplomb. Tonight will surely be a milestone to a greater career.