Not to stereotype us in any way, but marvellous though Club Uncut is, not much dancing has traditionally gone on there. As a one-stop shop for American songwriters of a certain stripe, we’ve done pretty well. But last night’s show by Fool’s Gold is something else entirely.
I raved about the debut album by Fool’s Gold towards the end of last year, a terrific smash-and-grab raid on various African musical styles carried out by a collective of LA scenesters. “Fool’s Gold” sounded like, if the band were up to strength, they could well be a mighty party band.
And so it turns out, from the moment their drummer mooches onto the Borderline stage, 15 minutes early, and starts off a rolling break for a minute or two, before he’s joined by his five bandmates. In its own time, the jam crystallises into “Nadine”, when the sax player takes up the song’s smoky, downtown Abbis riff. Like so much Fool’s Gold do, it’s in many ways a facsimile of an old sound – Luke Top’s voice even floats through the mix in a way much like Mahmoud Ahmed.
But for much of the gig, Top is singing in Hebrew, and the enthusiastic mixing of traditions feels like a heroic cultural fusion rather than a series of cynical appropriations. I imagine a good few world music stalwarts will regard Fool’s Gold with suspicion, and perhaps a generation notionally turned on to African music by Vampire Weekend might be a little alarmed by what are essentially quite dorky musos stretching out grooves in a way that isn’t particularly indie-friendly.
For the rest of us, though, we can marvel at this unstoppable force of a band: at Lewis Pesacov, an exuberant guitarist with a fine selection of Claptonish grimaces, a lot of sweat and hair, and a technique which reminds me very much of going to see Zimbabwean bands like The Four Brothers back in the ‘80s. There’s a drummer, a percussionist, a sax player who does the work of an entire horn section, a keyboardist/guitarist, Pesacov, Top, and a whole load of percussion instruments that get passed around the stage with something approaching abandon.
At times, you get the impression that these men could play pretty much anything – and that at some point, in doubtless complex past lives, they may well have done (Is this drummer the guy who played with The Fall, or the one who was in We Are Scientists?). Tonight, though, they turn their hand to desert blues (“Ha Dvash”), rearing gallops (“Night Dancing”) and, mostly, ecstatic township jives that work the audience – and, clearly, themselves – into a frenzy.
Finally, they play “The World Is All There Is”, which turns into a beery audience singalong of wordless harmonies. Fool’s Gold troop off in single file, playing their drums into the dressing room, but the singing continues for minutes more, until they return and jam with the crowd on the dancefloor. There is much hugging, a saxophone brandished aloft, a mass sit down and, eventually, another song, until the band take a final collective bow – as if they’ve just headlined the O2 – and work out how to stop playing. You don’t, it’s fair to say, get this sort of thing with Arbouretum.