Ten minutes’ freezing cold walk from Archway tube station up Highgate Hill is Lauderdale House, where chairs are neatly placed in rows of twelve with an aisle down the middle, as though ready for a worship meeting or a community consultation. There is no stage for the ten-piece band who have arranged themselves at the far end of the room in a semi-circle, mostly visible between and around pillars that, with the low ceiling, adverts for wedding hire and the wooden flooring, add so much to the unsuspecting charm of this place.  The sold-out house of 150 – all musicians or close friends and family of the band – are in their seats ahead of time; you can taste the anticipation for this performance of a yet-to-be-released jazz-rock-psycho-fusion concept album. We can’t wait.

The band is astonishingly good, displaying authority, conviction, humility, generosity, and focused, collaborative purpose in the empathic and soulful attitude the members each bring to the concert. Their musicianship is effortlessly and self-assuredly virtuosic. The rhythm section comprises Steve Green on drums, Nate Williams on bass and Ben Barritt on guitar, a trio who are as comfortable leaving tunes to simmer or idle in neutral as they are to lurch aggressively through the twists and turns of the landscape carved and meticulously polished by the suited and suave Shafighian whose velvet, flat-white singing style couches the cruel and capricious conscience of his protagonist (and alter-ego?), Danny Chevron. Shafighian embodies the role of his disturbed existentialist anti-hero, also playing the character’s darkened ‘inner voice’. Anna Goodwin plays Mama Chevron, and Barritt doubles as Papa Chevron, on whose joint parental advice Danny’s tortured minds spins toward its uncertain fate.

The music sounds like Donald Fagen meeting Ben Folds and Tower of Power to collaborate on a Sting record paying homage to a Coen Brothers movie adaptation of a Norman Mailer novel. Innuendo and sleaze pervade the libretto, as in the first song’s double metaphor of supercars and call girls (Sasha and Erica, sung seductively by Fini Bearman and Mishka Adams) where Chevron ‘pop[s] her sweet ass into gear’. The by-turns shimmering and angry horn section of Mike Chillingworth, Pablo Mendelssohn and Tim Smart expertly punctuates the suite of seven songs; each time Chillingworth unleashes a solo he invokes Coltrane at his break-neck modal peak, and the vibe in the room goes from booty-shaking to near-orgasmic. The dynamic and emotional arc of the evening is almost magnificent, with the energy peaking around the Golden Mean of songs 4 and 5, ‘Reflections’ and ‘The Rush’. After this, Chevron spirals into introspection, and the band relax on the sorbet-and-hot-towel of filthy lounge-jazz play-out, ‘Legacy’, another vehicle for Barritt’s total-taste guitar soloing. There is a brief, satisfied silence before enthusiastic applause lasts for longer than anyone expects.

This is a review of the first concert to be championed by SUSMusic. Upon its release in early 2013, The Rise and Fall of Danny Chevron will be the first album to be championed by SUSMusic. RFDC is Atar Shafighian’s third album, following 2004’s Funkadrome and 2010’s The Royal Showdown.  

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