Into Music Live Review: Guana Batz
Concert: Guana Batz
Venue: Camden Underworld
Date: 11 November 2022
Camden really has such a rich musical history. Standing outside my hotel earlier that night, 50 yards to my right is Chalk Farm Tube Station, the scene of the iconic album cover for Absolutely by Madness. 50 yards to my left is The Roundhouse venue where the likes of Bowie, The Ramones, The Doors and countless others have played throughout the years. Two minutes later we are walking past the entrance to Camden Market. A quick check and there is the Amy Winehouse statue and Rehearsal Rehearsals, the site where The Clash morphed from nascent punk upstarts to international behemoths, the only band that matters.
Keep walking over Camden Lock, Dingwalls on the right, a quick detour via The Good Mixer pub (where every good, bad and indifferent Britpop band hung out). Then onto Parkway to discover the delights of No Hit Records/Sounds That Swing. Wall to wall rockabilly, garage, doo wop and rock and roll vinyl which is next door to the infamous Dublin Castle pub.
Back down the road, past the fantastic venue that is the Electric Ballroom before we move past Camden Tube Station (incidentally, the scene of another Madness album cover, 1999’s Wonderful) and then round the corner we arrive at tonight’s venue, Camden Underworld.
There are plenty of familiar faces outside so it’s good to catch up with a few old friends before heading inside. The gig is a sell out and highlights the pull of the Guana Batz. It’s remarkable that they still remain at the top of their game, 40 years after they first formed in Feltham.
The set was to focus on their 1987 Live Over London album with a return to the line-up of original bass player Sam Sardi though unfortunately Sam had to pull out a few days beforehand. Worry not. Current bass player Paul “Choppy” Lambourne was on hand to step in and take his place on stage.
The four-piece took to the stage and immediately launched into a raucous Can’t Take The Pressure. The track, loud and wild, set the marker for what was to follow. A wonderfully sleazy Lady Bacon soon followed, before the Batz went full on 50s rockabilly with a rockin’ Texas Eyes.
Next up, Endless Love really showcased the band at their finest, the drums giving the backbeat, Stuart Osborne’s guitar guiding the track while Choppy’s slap bass simply oozed up and down the scales. Meantime, singer Pip Hancox hollered and howled the vocals, the crowd lapping it up.
Radio Sweetheat was well received. Several rockabilly girls got up to strut their stuff before a thumping The Cave sent the crowd into a no-holds-barred wrecking pit which was quickly followed up by an energetic take on Electra Glide In Blue.
Katherine saw Stuart Osborne on lead vocals before Pip returned with a frenzied take on early track Jungle Rumble. An exquisite cover of Springsteen’s I’m On Fire and a closing Streetwise brought the gig to an end.
One encore. And it could only be King Rat, the band’s signature tune that finished off an impressive set.
Have to say I’ve seen The Guana Batz many times, going back to the 1980s and I don’t think I’ve seen them play better. Let’s hope they’re back soon.