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OVER THE BORDER
:: Puressence :: Aziz ::
22 March 2003 / The Boardwalk / Sheffield
By Cath Aubergine

There's no getting away from the fact that Aziz Ibrahim, in his dad-slacks and sensible shoes, looks more like a mortgage advisor than a guitar wizard. There's just him and a guitar and some Indian instrument with about 20 strings and big knobs on. In fact he'd been playing quietly for a good ten or fifteen minutes before we actually noticed... it was only when the familiar tune of Ian Brown's "Corpses" drifted into my consciousness that I thought "hmmm, not heard this for a while" and then it dawned on me that someone else was singing it. "And not particularly well" said one of my mates. "Yeah, but then neither did Ian Brown" mused another.

The only other recognisable tune was another Ian Brown single "My Star". Yes, if there was someone living in a cave in the Outer Hebrides who didn't know where Aziz fitted into Manchester's rock family tree than I think they do now. The guitar work was impressive, if you are the sort of person impressed by incredibly intricate finger picking and string bending - but with the average Puressence crowd not being exactly over-run by Mark Knopfler fans in cardigans I doubt many people cared. And the Indian instrument gets a tokenistic airing... someone in the crowd mentions the word "sitar" and is frostily corrected by Aziz, I can't for the life of me remember what he said it was, and I'm not going to lose any sleep over it.

And that's about as interesting as it got really. I've heard him referred to as "Aziz Also-ran" and thought it rather unkind, but that was before I had to sit through half an hour of his tedious noodling. I'd rather listen to John Squire's solo album, and that's saying something. Eventually he shuffled off leaving half the crowd blissfully unaware there had even been a support act.

Within seconds, the space Aziz had managed to clear around the stage front had filled up. There's no doubt Puressence have a loyal following, complete with a minibus-load from Manchester and a sizeable continental European borderline-stalker contingent, many of whom are in Sheffield for the second time in two weeks after the last-minute postponement of this gig due to James Mudriczki's hospitalisation for something internal. You wouldn't know it to look at him now though as he hoists himself up the speaker stack to survey the crowd in that ever-so-slightly menacing way.

It's a stripped-down Puressence on show tonight. No keyboard assistance and no slide backgrounds, just four blokes on a stage playing their songs. Starting off with "Near Distance" which still sends a shiver down a lot of peoples' spines, they pull the finest moments from all three albums. James's voice is as strong and clear and frankly unique as ever (it was only the other week a confused American asked me if it was a bloke or a girl!), and Kev's vaguely dub-influenced bass, more to the forefront than in the early days, makes them definitely the sensitive-indie-soaring-epics band you can dance to. If you so wish...


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