Gigs can be as much about people watching as it is about band watching. As well as already converted zealots, gigs are often peppered with people looking for the next big thing, the chance to be able to say that they were there in that really small venue when said up and coming outfit makes the proverbial big time. With this in mind, the diversity of the audience at this kind of homecoming London show believe that Puppy are going to be very big indeed. There are metalheads, indie kids, hipsters, music industry PR types (one of whom sets off a veritable tsunami of stage diving) and middle-aged men who probably should know better (that’ll be me then).
We will get to the headliner in a minute. First though, in front of a very lively and loud audience are the very splendid Green Lung. Hailing from darkest south London, Green Lung are a heavy psych band trailing around their excellent debut album Woodland Rites (Kozmik Artifactz Records). It is clear from the off that these guys have every Black Sabbath record ever made in their record collections and, as any fule kno, this is no bad thing. What sets them apart though is an unerring knack for melody. Their energy and panache is matched by a songcraft and stagecraft that their influences and mentors would undoubtedly doff their proverbial caps to. Theirs is stoner and blues influenced heavy rock with just enough patchouli scented riffing to keep the most cynical engaged and the rest of us highly entertained and satisfied.
Puppy, though, are undeniable and irresistible tonight. They are :1) very loud 2) very funny and 3) really, really good. A 12 song setlist with no room for flab or flagging, this is a performance that equally pleases diehards and new fans alike. Going in hard and early with Entombed not only sets the mood and pace but suggests a greater level of collective confidence in their playing and art. ‘The Great Beyond’ now sounds like the biggest alt-rock tune since the early 90s and ‘Forever’ has grown into anthemic proportions without losing one ounce of its heartfelt melancholy. There’s a surge of audience adrenalin for ‘Black Hole’ and the 90s vibe is replete with the most stage diving I’ve seen since Smashing Pumpkins in Bristol Bierkeller in 1992. I know this because I did much of that.
As a live prospect, Puppy are darker, louder and grittier than their recorded output might initially suggest. Sonics aside, though, they are never going to shake off their unerring knack for faultless and timeless melody, infectious and addictive riffing and all-around general likability. This was top entertainment, breathlessly and effortlessly delivered. They may have had their collective tongues firmly in cheek by calling this set of shows “The Greatest of All Tours”; after tonight, they might have to check their irony at the stage door. Excellent.