VHS or Beta - Paard Van Troye, Den Haag 23/05/05

The singer pleaded for the crowd to come forward, which they did, like shy calves coming to get a mouthful of grass.




It's Monday night in Den Haag. Everything, naturally, is closed, even the bar next door to the Paard, which is such a nice place to go for a swift one before a concert. There's nothing for it but to enter the venue incredibly early, and hang around like a couple of goons. Hmmm. It could be a very quiet show this evening. We hear that the ticket sales aren't great, and that, coupled with the fact that we've never seen this band and have only heard one song of theirs on a compilation CD, does not bode well for an evening's entertainment. Still, by the time VHS or Beta walk on, the small room has around forty to fifty people in it, enough for us to hide in comparative safety on the stairs.


VHS or Beta (actually, from now on, I'm calling the band V/B, okay?) comprise of five people; a drummer playing a very sparsely adorned kit, a chap who pays all sorts of keyboards, a bass guitarist who, (given his haircut) has a penchant for the Ramones, a guitarist who looks a wee bit like Colin Firth pretending to be Mozart, and a singer who could be Damo Suzuki if he grew his hair. Not that it matters in the slightest, but I was struck by their disparate, scruffy, "band on the road" appearance. Normally US bands come across as well-showered, even slightly over cologned. Not this lot.


V/B get on with it, slowly building up a mesh of guitar noise before the singer lets rip with a plaintive, strangled vocal style reminiscent, (and I reckon V/B are sick of this comparison, but I have to report it, just this once seeing it's their Dutch debut), of Robert Smith. Still it's bloody good, and the band thumps along nicely. They certainly have something, albeit a bit broody. End of track one, (called, I was told subsequently, Alive), and things were looking up.


Indeed things from that point rarely, if ever, looked down. The singer pleaded for the crowd to come forward, which they did, like shy calves coming to get a mouthful of grass.  V/B then began to play long drawn out incredibly dancey instrumentals, which hinted stylistically at late Can, Low Life era New Order and Top era Cure. This might make them sound, to you the reader, like the worst kind of fashionable band. However, this presumption on your part would be utterly wrong. They were a fantastic proposition live. They also possessed that peculiar bass-drum thump that American bands seem to own the copyright to and which is so persuasive when used live. The crowd began to move forward a little more, a sure sign that things were going well. After a while, the compulsion to dance threatened to overtake certain isolated pockets of the crowd. They shuffled forward some more. By the time V/B played the one song we knew, Night on Fire, full scale jiving was in evidence. An encore was hollered for; much, I suspect, to the band's relief.


Later the band, obviously happy, chatted to the enthusiastic crowd whilst flogging their merchandise. And Incendiary, it has be said, was impressed enough to buy the t-shirt, a natty black number which will soon be the envy of the office.


An unexpectedly great night out!


Words: Richard Foster.