The word around Bishopgate Steet is that ‘The Bear’s’ got something seriously cookin’ in the revived, legendary Henry’s Blues House at The Bull. Blues, Bull, Bear! What’s going on down man? It’s strictly access incognito; cryptic knowing nods of recognition in the street-level bar, Covid protocols apply de rigueur. There’s a clandestine wink, agitated raised eyebrow action from a grinning Bear to the upstairs function room. What kind of function’s he got in mind? Whilst The Review Hub brief embraces a broad church – there’s a limit to when it comes to honey traps!
The prospect, the promise of live music after the bane of interminable months of gig-embargoes is soon punctuated by the unmistakable honk of a baritone sax – a Biscuit Boy sax. A whop bop-a-lua a whop bam boom – it’s all systems a go-go for six-piece King Pleasure & The Biscuit Boys to rehearse together live after a sixteen-month enforced sabbatical. So, respect due to the legendary ‘Bear’, aka Jim Simpson, given leave to invite a cohort of cosy guests along.
It’s a sweaty-set potpourri soirée of doing their unique thing with a decadent Swing accent on all that’s sass-Jazz spectacular, be-bop deluxe and sultry, love-tangled fandango Tango. Frontman, lead vocals, sax-to-the-max maître d’ Mark Skirving (moonlighting as accomplished fine-artist) comments, after the melody-mashing gorgeous mayhem of the first set, closing with featured instrumental solos – Pablo & His Dancing Chihuahuas -‘ Bloody Hell, we’ve remembered it!’
The band take their name from the 1922-Tennessee-born King Pleasure, whose unique vocal/instrumental interface scat became known as vocalese inspiring many devotees. The Biscuit Boys’ affectation is just plain silly, but best not go on to the ‘Dark Web’ just in case. It’s an early evening’s surprise delight just to be in a damn-fine Victorian pub, terracotta facade, probably original tobacco-stained timbers drinking a name from the past, locally brewed beer. The more adjusted punter just somehow having to live with the upstairs Peaky Blinder/ faux chic, heart-shaped, flamingo-pink boa aesthetic.
King Pleasure & The Biscuit Boys’ rollicking reputation precedes them from Teletubbies land to a hallelujah grapple with The Big Apple and beyond. Utterly no reason, post-pandemic, they won’t slap-bass shake, rattle and stroll into their impending fourth decade of inexhaustible jive-vibe virtuosity. Television, radio, YouTube and Zoom have been a performance platform panacea for so many months – but to experience again, musicians performing live: all we need is that solid air to once again shift and breath. These boogie-woogie Time Bandits of Swing just so ooh-be-doo/want to be liked by you – again.
Looking through a most rarely poured dimple beer-glass gladly – the future’s so bright – you better wear shades.
Reviewed on 22 June 2021