Hayseed Dixie + Tenpole Tudor @ Robin 2, Bilston, 19th March 2010

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A hot steamy adrenaline pumping, packed-out Robin 2 club at Bilston was host to Hayseed Dixie supported by Ed Tudor Pole, aka Tenpole Tudor.

Ed, looking every bit like the slender punk of the 1970s, gave a fabulous warm-up performance drawing on the full range of his musical and acting talent. He has the sort of rubber face that can be contorted any which way you want and can still make breathtakingly athletic movements on stage, the sometimes unsuccessful conclusion of which might explain the need for the masking tape holding his acoustic guitar together!

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Starting with a very recent composition about the joys of train travel, Ed went on to his more well known work including ‘Swords of a Thousand Men’, ‘Wunderbar’ and ‘Who Killed Bambi’, the latter as featured in the Sex Pistols film The Great Rock and Roll Swindle. Throughout he had the audience in the palm of his hand with amusing anecdotes on life including how he met his wife through a love of blackjacks.

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After playing to a half empty larger venue at St.Albans the night before, Hayseed Dixie gave a barnstorming performance in the more intimate surroundings of the Robin 2 club. The band started their career doing cover versions of AC/DC songs, before going on to cover other artists, with all arranged in a unique bluegrass and rock style! They are famous for their outrageous covers of songs such as Black Sabbath’s ‘War Pigs’ and Motorhead’s ‘Ace of Spades’. Their way with cover versions is truly amazing!

Visually stunning, with instrumental virtuosity and great stage presence, the band are Jake (Bakesnake) Byers’ (sporting a vast bushy beard) on massive bass, John (Barley Scotch) Wheeler on guitar, violin and vocals, “Deacon” Dale Renos’ on mandolin and banjo playing by “Reverend” Dale Reno.

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The audience were treated to a vigorous rendition of some of the best work of Hayseed Dixie, from Mozart to the Rolling Stones to Queen and many of their own compositions, all in the compelling blue grass multiple string sound of bass, banjo, violin, mandolin and guitar. In between we were treated to a delightful commentary on life, with amusing advice on birth control, how to treat your former partners and going for a beer with Take That in Norway (where beer is outrageously £8 a bottle). Beer was a recurring theme with a steady supply provided by a delightfully illuminated on-stage refrigerator.

The set was split into a number of themes: Early love, Drinking, Killing, Things leading up to killing.

Highlights included, from the new album ‘Killer Grass’, Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. This was my highlight of the night, performed at a great pace, with delightful vocal harmonies and superb musical craftsmanship (catch their video on You Tube).

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Also: Mozart’s ‘Eine Kleine Trinkmusik’ (that’s what they call it!)— great guitar playing; AC/DC’s Highway to Hell; the Rolling Stones’ ‘Paint in Black’ — a splendid off-beat rendition; Aerosmith’s ‘Walk this Way’; ‘War Pigs’; and of course ‘Ace of Spades’.

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As the show reached its climax, the band demonstrated their obvious love of British culture by stressing this is not the BBC and there are adverts (they have to sell as much merchandise as they can to pay off the many women who are still laying financial claim on them) and they belted out an amusing strop encouraging us all to part with some more money for CDs and tee shirts on the way out.

Review – Tom Caton
Photos – John Bentley

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