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DETROIT UNCOVERED
:: The Detroit Cobras ::
22 November 2004 / The Roadhouse / Manchester
By Cath Aubergine

“Best covers band in the world, these.” That’s the opinion of one of the Detroit Cobras’ biggest fans in the UK, who’s written to them at least once asking them to play The Roadhouse. An appropriate request: with a hit under their belts on the back of another TV ad and the Roadhouse well sold out on a Monday night, they could have played one of the Academy venues, but proper rock’n’roll belongs in a proper rock’n’roll venue. They walk out onto the dark, low stage looking like they belong there. Rachel Nagy, officially the hardest frontwoman in rock, is still bruised from a fight which delayed last night’s Nottingham gig and it was a brave man or woman who took her on. She lights up the first of many Marlboros, looking like she could snap you with one arm, and the fun begins. Now I’m as bored as the rest of you with the words “Detroit” and “blues”, but it’s quickly apparent this band is several cuts above most of what’s come out of that city in recent years. For a start they’re a full band complete with bass player, and whilst some contemporaries look like they’ve stepped out of The Face, the Cobras look like they’ve stepped off the night shift in a Motor City sheet metal factory, and then spent all day in a bar. In truth they’ve been on the road for weeks. “It’s good to hear English again” drawls Nagy. “Say something in English to me!” “Gravy!” comes a rather perplexing reply.

The music, too, has lived a million lives. Covers they may be, but the Cobras take the lesser known gems of Motown, dirty soul and swamp delta blues and rework them into gloriously mean sounding MC5 influenced jams. Nagy has the voice to match her looks: beautiful and rough and full of character, belting out choruses like Irma Franklin. It’s telling that the front couple of rows are almost entirely women - she’s who we’d all secretly like to be. The rest of the band - female guitarist and male rhythm section, are loud, tight and never miss a beat. They don’t restrict themselves to the old 12-bar imprint either - there are straight up punk stormers Iggy himself would have been proud of. Most of which, like the current album, contain the word “Baby!“ - but Nagy pulls a hundred different emotions out of the word. It’s consistently high quality - unlike fellow one-ad wonders The 5678s, who a couple of months back lost half the crowd’s attention here after knocking out the big hit, Cha Cha Twist comes and goes and everyone’s still dancing. They finish with Shout Bama Lama, Otis Redding reworked as The Clash, to an enthusiastic pogo from the crowd’s tattooed punk comtingent. The best covers band in the world? Yeah, and then some. One of the best good old-fashioned rock’n’roll bands you’ll see in 2004.


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