Boy Azooga review – Real Rocky Times at their homecoming gig in Cardiff

Well, if anyone could have coaxed us out of our homes and into the lashings of Storm Diana, it was going to be Boy Azooga. The indie four-piece from Cardiff – fronted by the charismatic Dave Newington – brought the house down at an energetic home show on Thursday night and it’s fair to say that nobody was doing the Standing Still. After a busy year touring the world – most recently completing their first American tour – the ever-humble Azooga boys have barely been able to relax as they continue to snowball into success. At the beginning of November, mastermind behind the album, ‘1, 2 Kung Fu!, Newington, found himself competing against fellow labelmate Gwenno, The Manics and Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals  when he took home the Welsh Music Prize.

The gig – which sold out over a month in advance – was situated in the upstairs of O’Neill’s. We walked into the venue soon after doors and though we were met with a hoard of familiar faces, there were a lot of fresh faces, both young and old, a reflection of how far they have come in a year alone. The room rapidly filled up during the first support – the amazing Men On The Chessboard (featuring Azooga’s very own Daf Davies) – and kept expanding throughout The Bug Club’s lively set.

As time drew closer to Boy Azooga’s performance, the venue was almost spilling over with fans and friends, eagerly awaiting the local quartet. Dave – clad in a tan, tasseled leather jacket and a Kelly’s Records t-shirt – joined band mates Daf (drums), Dylan (keys, guitar and vibraphone) and Sam (bass) on stage. The roar from the crowd before the band had even assembled was deafening. Dave greeted the audience and began the first few chords to their well-known hit ‘Loner Boogie’ – and although this was just a prelude, it hyped the crowd into a frenzy.

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The Azoogas then went on to play another upbeat number, ‘Taxi To Your Head’; Musically speaking, it’s a sonority wonderland – with an array of percussion to keep you tapping your feet. Davey’s voice almost dissolved into the audience’s own rendition as they went on to perform, ‘Face Behind Her Cigarette’. The  boys’ faces reflected one anothers;  completely enamoured and taken aback by the crowd’s support. This was the moment that I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up as I reflected on the importance of our musical community as an integral part of our culture. A wave of pride in our community seems to come over me at every Boy Azooga gig, but on Thursday night it peaked.

Similarly, during ‘Jerry’, the audience seemed to be in an emotional trance –singing along and boogying to the spine-tingling symphony. The Azooga boys belted out fan favourites as well as snippets of upcoming work, and the relentless audience did not tire. Even during slower, more poignant songs such as ‘Waitin’ and ‘First Rock From The Sun’, the crowd continued to move, swaying in awe with the melody.

The tempo rose during Boy Azooga’s cover of The Table’s ‘Do The Standing Still’. More upbeat, funky tunes followed in the form of ‘Splott 5-0’, ‘Upside Down’ and of course, ‘Loner Boogie’.

But it wouldn’t be a Boy Azooga gig without getting all your mates up on stage for the final number – A cover of Heatwave’s, ‘Boogie Nights’. The crowd lost their minds as Llew and Sion of Men On The Chessboard and guitarist and longtime friend Jack Butler jammed to the 70s classic together on stage. The next surprise came as Dave invited Esther Taylor and Jessy Allen up to sing a Paul McCartney ballad, ‘Coming Up’ and the togetherness ricocheted off the stage and through the crowd. The night escalated into a musical celebration and a few audience members were invited on stage toward the end to close the night. One thing that has been consistent whilst watching the growth of Boy Azooga, especially in a live context; is the difficulty not to be enamoured by their humility. Whether they’re playing a festival, a sold out show in London or a gig at home on St.Mary’s Street, their principles remain the same and they manage to strike the perfect chord between endearing and exciting at the same time.

Words by @corinnekday.

Photo credit // @heyadamwhitmore.

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