Educational, punk, and hilarious to boot - Itch put on a fantastic unplugged evening while giving everyone a taste into the music industry that they may not have ordinarily had.
Unsure of what to expect from an unplugged night with The King Blues‘ Itch, the evening, which was more like “An evening with” did not disappoint. With support from Joe Mongan, who had some fantastic songs on discussing your emotions as a male and Donald Trump, and the punky Louise Distras, Itch came on stage in what he dubbed a “KFC suit”, a slightly ironic white suit with a silk pocket square, and started with the spoken word piece, “What if Punk Never Happened”.
It was almost like acting or performance art, as he spoke the lines “I looked in the driver’s seat, I swear to God it was Doc Brown / He said, “are you Michael J Fox? / I said, “no, I’m Johnny Fox” which start off “What If Punk Never Happened”, the piece about a place where “The kids would rather skate than go out and smash the state”, where nobody cares and they’re not angry or wanting to change anything – there’s not even anyone around to fight Margaret Thatcher, and if that doesn’t give you an indication of the kind of sentiment Itch and The King Blues, in general, have in their music then nothing will.
Telling us that he’s not just going to say haiku’s from his haiku book all night because that’s a bit pretentious, he promised to take us through the last thirteen years of his career. With a ukulele, guitar, stool and table being the only items on stage, the show was very much led by his personal experiences in the music industry, like the time when they had £100 for a tour bus and had the choice on Ebay between “An eighties ambulance that people have definitely died in or an ice cream van with £30 worth of stock”. People at the time didn’t want to give them gigs because they thought acoustic meant James Blunt, so they played to people in queues before gigs from a PA they built on a tricycle powered by a car battery.
He linked each talking point with a song, like how they were forming and not getting gigs with “If I Had A Coin”, or how they couldn’t understand what punks were saying but thought they could change the world with songs before singing “Shooting Fascists” – a song that when he played in Germany by mistake, didn’t go down well. He told us about how they would open squats “When it was legal” and had parties “Hoping people watched them play for the craic… crack. Craic.” Performing most of his songs on a ukulele, admitting they were all done with G, Em, C and D chords, there was a pretty good deal of audience participation, like when he made us pretend we were at a Meatloaf concert with a Harley and a child choir, or when he got someone who vaped to sit next to him on stage during “Lamppost Light” because the smoke machine was too intense. Even if he did tell him to “Smoke a fucking cigarette” instead of vaping pineapple cake flavoured vapour.
He regaled us with stories of how someone at a record label had to decide between The King Blues and Mumford and Sons (“And I’m sure we can all guess who they chose”), and of how he always wanted to do a Christmas number one with a homless man with a dog (“People would think it was a charity song but it wouldn’t be, I’d just keep all the money – money’s tight, this KFC suit doesn’t pay for itself.”), continuing with “Yeah, No, It’s Mad”, “Eat The Rich”, and “When I Die”.
I’ve never seen someone be so punk on a ukulele, as Itch told us about how he’s “Of that generation where a dad singing a love song at me makes me a little uncomfortable”. Continuing with the music industry lessons, he ended with “Rise”, “Thumbs”, and probably The King Blues most popular song to date, “Save The World, Get The Girl”. It was a fantastic, more educational than I was expecting, evening, which showcased the impressive lyrical capability of Itch and the fantastic songwriting of both Itch and The King Blues as a unit.