Percy Gulliver's, Liverpool
Odd choice of venue. Percy Gulliver’s Print Shop is stationed on a balcony above Liverpool’s popular Shipping Forecast bar, and the cacophony of raucous Saturday night revellers drifts onto the stage before the show has even started. Still, it comes as a surprise when Eric Bachmann decides to take us elsewhere – “It’s loud as shit in here,” he explains, before leading the crowd to the venue’s stairwell, acoustic in hand and flanked by backing vocalist Liz Durrett. What follows is almost claustrophobically intimate, but glows in an atmosphere of hushed reverence and a thrilling sense of illicit secrecy.
Bachmann’s voice is their key selling point, the gravel-spiked roar of his Archers of Loaf days long settled into a soft, honeyed rasp. Durrett further sweetens the deal with her immaculate harmonies, softening the hard edges of ‘Bad Blood’s stuttering boogie and provoking a few damp-eyed sniffs around the room. In fact, it suits Crooked Fingers to play as a duo – the occasional brashness of latest opus ‘Breaks In The Armor’ may be diluted, but the comfort offered in its place is richly rewarding. And who would ever have imagined we’d ever cherish those qualities from the man behind ‘Icky Mettle’s caustic one-liners?
Speaking of which, ‘Web In Front’ is wheeled out pretty early on, much to the delight of all present. “You’re not the one who let me down,” it goes, “But thanks for offering.” Twenty years ago that line seethed with sarcastic fury, but with less venom to channel in middle age, he comes across as positively vulnerable. It’s a stark contrast to the persona he presented as a young man, but this newfound warmth suits Eric. Even the angriest of punks gotta calm down some time: doing so with such melodic gusto is a subtle kick.