There’s barely a dry eye in the corner of the Electric Ballroom where I’m standing when as part of the taped music that introduces Mick Jones’ Carbon/Silicon, Joe Strummer’s lovely, wistful “Willesden To Cricklewood”, the dreamy closing track of Joe’s ‘comeback’ album, Rock, Art And The X-Ray Style, plays over the PA.
A lot of manly throat-clearing is then drowned out by a stentorian orchestral blast that replaces Joe’s autumnal melancholy and fair startles everyone, not least Mick Jones, who’s now standing on stage, smiling nervously at cohort Tony James as the orchestral surge reaches an appropriately dramatic climax, which makes Mick laugh.
“Good evening,” he says, and then in reference to the now-subsiding musical bombast that has preceded his remarks adds: “I do hope we’re not bigging ourselves up too much.”
And with this, Carbon/Silicon, launch, as we are prone to say, into “The Magic Suitcase”, from their forthcoming debut album, The Last Post, which we review in the new issue of Uncut, on sale next week.
Six months ago, I saw Carbon/Silicon play a fantastic set in Mick’s studio in Acton, about 30 people crammed into a tiny, sweltering place, the band no more than a couple of feet away from where I was standing in the front row, only a mixing desk between them and the whooping audience.
Tonight’s show, surprisingly, is a wholly more sedate affair – maybe it’s the fairly modest size of the crowd and a muted sound, but things never seem entirely to get going, the crowd perhaps yearning for something they’ve heard before (and I’m thinking they’d be somewhat keener to hear, say, “White Riot” than “Love Missile F1- 11”, although I could be mistaken).
In the event, the set’s drawn entirely from the new album – which means airings for what you can imagine soon will be much-anticipated crowd-pleasers like “Action Zulus”, “The News”, “What The Fuck”, “Really The Blues” and the admirably pounding “Why Do Men Fight?”, one of tonight’s indisputed highlights.
Mainly, these songs are still being played in – the band a bit short of match practice, after only a few festival appearances this summer. I’m sure they’ll sharpen quickly when they start gigging in earnest and the occasional flatness of tonight’s show will very soon be forgotten as these songs assume a more volatile momentum.
As it is, there are plenty of great moments and, by God, it’s a gas to see Mick back onstage, looking brilliant, and so thoroughly enjoying himself.
“Comrades! Peers! Contemporaries! Critics!” he announces before a great version of “War On Culture”, smiling, simply happy to be here. “You don’t know what it’s like to be back.”
We smile back, as happy as him, Tony James similarly beaming, men on a mission, soon, you suspect, to be accomplished.