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Nine Below Zero

Saturday 21st January 2023

The 100 Club, London

British R&B/Rock legends Nine Below Zero made a triumphant return to the historic 100 Club on London’s Oxford Street for another of their time-honoured sold-out gigs there. This time they were celebrating the 40th Anniversary of their 1982 album release ‘Third Degree’, which was their last with A&M records and final album before they split up in 1983. Indeed, the whole album was played in its entirety on this current tour. The gig was originally scheduled to play at the Under The Bridge club in Chelsea, London in November 2022, but was moved to The 100 Club as the venue has stopped holding live events there.

Nine Below Zero formed in South London in 1977 by guitarist and lead vocalist Dennis Greaves. For the first two years they were known as “Stan's Blues Band" before changing their name to “Nine Below Zero”, after the Sonny Boy Williamson song, in 1979. They built up a following in and around South London pubs and clubs, where they were spotted in 1979 by Mickey Modern, who signed them up to A&M Records. They released their seminal debut album ‘Live At The Marquee’ in 1980, recorded live at the famous Marquee Club in London and featuring a plethora of high energy Punk infused interpretations of R&B classics plus a few originals for good measure!

By the end of 1980 they had moved from selling out the Marquee to selling out the Hammersmith Odeon. In 1981 their first studio album ‘Don't Point Your Finger’, produced by the legendary Glyn Johns, was released, and climbed to number 56 on the UK Albums Chart. In 1982 they appeared on ‘The Young Ones’ comedy show performing the track ‘Eleven Plus Eleven’ before releasing the ‘Third Degree’ album, which reached number 38 on the UK Albums Chart.

In 1983 the band split, Dennis Greaves going on to form the Mod/New Wave band ‘The Truth’ with Mick Lister. By 1990 Nine Below Zero were back for a sell-out 10th Anniversary Concert at the Town & Country Club in Kentish Town, London. The band continued in various guises from that point on with Dennis Greaves being the only constant member throughout. Over the last twenty-three years they have released a steady stream of consistent quality studio and live albums including ‘On The Road Again’ (1991), ‘Off The Hook’ (1992), ‘Hot Music for a Cold Night’ (1994), ‘Ice Station Zebro’ (1995), ‘Refrigerator’ (2000), ‘Chilled’ (2002), ‘Hat's Off’ (2005), ‘It's Never Too Late!’ (2009), ‘The Co-Operative’ (with Glenn Tilbrook) (2011), ‘13 Shades of Blue’ (2016) and ‘Avalanche’ (2019).

The current line-up consists of Dennis Greaves on guitar and vocals (1977-1983, 1990-present), Mark Feltham on harmonica and vocals (1977-1983, 1990-1992, 2001-present), Sonny Greaves on drums (2018–present), Charlie Austen on vocals, percussion and acoustic guitar (2016-present), Tom Monks on keyboards and rhythm guitar (2019-present), and newest member, Anthony Harty, on bass (2022-present). Kicking the evening’s proceedings off in convivially vigorous style was the whole of side one of the ‘Third Degree’ album which included ‘Eleven Plus Eleven’, ‘Wipe Away Your Kiss’, ‘Why Can't We Be What We Want to Be’, ‘Tearful Eye’, ‘True Love Is a Crime’ and ‘Egg on My Face’, before four delectably enticing tracks from the 2019 studio album ‘Avalanche’ brought the set presentation up to date as to where the band are at now musically. Not so much Punk, more AOR, but definitely none the less delicious! These included ‘Ter-Wit Ter-Woo’, ‘Zebulon’, ‘Austerity Blues’ and ‘Recycle Me’.

Another jump back into the band’s past came with four high-octane classic gems in the form of ‘Pack Fair and Square’ (Big Walter & His Thunderbirds cover), ‘Can I Get a Witness’ (Marvin Gaye cover), ‘Treat Her Right’ (Roy Head cover) and ‘Hard Goin' Up (Twice as Hard Coming Down)’ (Little Sonny cover). With the first three pogoing was optional, but not actively discouraged! Following on from these franticly tantalising corkers it was time for side two of the ‘Third Degree’ album with ‘Sugarbeat (and Rhythm Sweet)’, ‘Mystery Man’, ‘Easy Street SE17’, ‘You Don't Love Me’ (Willie Cobbs cover) and ‘You Can't Say Yes and You Can't Say No’, all delivered with seasoned panache and cool R&B swagger!

On to the final section of the night’s entertainment with the frenetic Blues classic, ‘Homework’ (Otis Rush cover), from the 1980 debut album ‘Live at the Marquee’. Pure class! To draw the jubilant set to a close we were treated to a couple of tributes to recently departed guitar legends, firstly the sensational Wilko Johnson penned Dr. Feelgood classic ‘Twenty Yards Behind’, and then a final sing-along to the late great Jeff Beck’s novelty hit ‘Hi Ho Silver Lining’. The band were on fire and delivered their usual high standard performance. A fun time was had by all!

Steven C. Gilbert

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