see all the photos from this show here

All About Eve
The Borderline, London
Friday December 19 2003
~review and photos by Uncle Nemesis

Ah, this brings back memories. Walking in to the Borderline’s faux Tex-Mex decor - all fake adobe and corrugated iron - is a surreal experience given that we’re in a little basement in London WC2. But at one time, I used to be down here quite regularly. Back when I was in The Showbiz, I used to promote gigs at this venue. In fact, I like to think that some of the best-ever Nemesis shows took place in this odd little cellar beneath a Mexican restaurant in Soho. The only reason I gave up on the Borderline was because a new manager took over, with a brief to make the place pay its way or else. Apparently, the venue had been losing money and was being heavily subsidised by the Mexican restaurant upstairs. The manager’s remedy was brutal. Overnight, the rental fee increased to £800. Add VAT to that, and independent promoters suddenly found themselves expected to fork out the best part of a thousand pounds just to get inside the doors of the club.  This, for a 275 capacity basement which doesn’t even have a dressing room!  Well, suffice to say that with such a massive up-front cost weighing the gig budget down, there was only one solution. Nemesis gigs abruptly ceased at the Borderline at the end of 1998, along with many other shows which used to be organised at the venue by independent promoters. We’d all been priced out.

I suspect that the Borderline management’s policy of charging like a rhino for the use of their venue backfired somewhat, because these days the place does not rent itself out to independent promoters at all. All gigs are now arranged in-house. This effectively means that ‘specialist’ areas of music such as goth, which tend to be well-nigh incomprehensible to anyone who only knows about mainstream stuff, don’t get a look-in. Fortunately, this is not a problem for All About Eve. The band’s history of chart hits and mainstream media coverage, and their general above-the-parapet profile, means that they can get a gig at the Borderline more or less any time they want, while bands which only enjoy goth-scene status would get knocked back. I’m sure that if Faith And The Muse - a band who could effortlessly fill the Borderline any night of the week -  were to approach the venue’s management for a gig, they’d be turned away with a polite but firm ‘Sorry, guys, never heard of you!’ All of which, if you ask me, just goes to prove that independent promoters with specialist ‘scene-knowledge’ are necessary.  Mind you, the way things are going these days, a substantial private income would also seem to be necessary. But I digress.

Mike from Manuskript is wandering around the venue, trying to find members of his band. It’s almost showtime; time to get on that stage. ‘The last time we were here,’ he remarks to me, ‘it was *your* fault!’  True - Manuskript last played the Borderline in 1997, at a Nemesis gig. Tonight, the band’s presence is All About Eve’s fault. The two bands struck up a rapport when they both played the Whitby Gothic Weekend in November 2003, and the Eves invited the ‘Skript to join them at the Borderline. This isn’t a particularly easy gig for Manuskript: they’ve got to win over a venue full of All About Eve fans, many of whom, I suspect, have never heard of Manuskript - or, indeed, any bands at all from around 1989 onwards. It has to be said that the age profile of this gig is biased somewhat towards the grizzled old codger end of the spectrum. But Manuskript bounce into action regardless, and wallop out a set of their spiky pop tunes with as much verve and enthusiasm as they can squeeze onto the small stage. Mike, the consummate frontman, fixes the crowd with a knowing, raised-eyebrow glance, and they’re away. Interestingly enough, the band have taken to throwing in their traditional cheesy pop cover - currently ‘Rock Me Amadeus’ - right at the start of the set these days, which is a brave move. It would be so easy to keep the cover for the grand finale, and go out on a guaranteed big cheer. But then, Manuskript don’t need to rely on vamped-up chart hits of yesteryear to boost their audience reaction - not when they’ve got killer tunes of their own, like ‘Crash Site Compassion’ and ‘Semaphore In Thunderstorms’, which hit the spot with unerring accuracy every time. The band do seem to be working hard tonight, giving it all they’ve got to provoke an unconvinced audience into some sort of reaction - and their efforts pay off, because by the end of the set the audience is clapping and cheering like they’ve just seen the headliners, rather than a mere support band. A result.

There’s a short break, during which anonymous stoner rock drizzles out of the PA. We’re entertained by the appearance of All About Eve’s set-list roadie, who fusses around, sticking umpteen set lists to every available surface on stage. I feel like calling out, ‘All About Eve are only a *four* piece band, y’know!’ He even consults with the guitar roadie about the precise angle at which he should position Julianne’s set list, near the vocal mic - a bit this way, or a bit that way? Ah, that’s about right. I can’t help laughing at his antics. I’ve never seen anyone pad out a simple little job with such furrowed-brow obsession. But hey, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again - you know you’ve made it in the world of rock ‘n’ roll when you have a special roadie for the set lists!

All About Eve arrive on stage to the traditional rousing reception. They’re playing to an almost totally partisan crowd; virtually everyone here tonight is a fan of the band from way back. That’s both a good thing and a bad thing. It’s good in that the band can be sure of an upbeat, successful gig. But it’s bad in that if the band genuinely intend to have an ongoing career in the twenty-first century, they’re going to have to pull in some new fans. The thirty-and-forty-something fanbase will doubtless continue to show up to the gigs, aware that they’ll be in for a nice nostalgic night out. But you can’t build a contemporary career on the back of middle-aged nostagia-seekers. Somehow, All About Eve are going to have to wrench their fan-demographic in the direction of The Kids. I’m sure All About Eve themselves are aware of this, because it’s clear that the band on stage before us is a leaner and meaner beast than the old-skoolers might expect.  The fans might want nostalgia, but it’s obvious that the band intend to cut the crap and make a ram-raid on the future.

Gone are the hippy-folkie trappings which, at one time, threatened to drag All About Eve into easy-listening coffee-table hell. No more long flappy skirts, no more sit-down ballads, and most of all - no more Martha’s Harbour! All About Eve, twenty-first century style, are a zestful new-waveish rock band, all crunchy guitar and pell-mell rhythms, with Julianne Regan herself, dressed in fetching post-punkette attire, letting rip in a full-on style which reminds me that she posesses one of the great rock voices - when she allows herself to rock. Fortunately, tonight, rocking is definitely allowed. The set contains old songs (‘We were doing our O-levels when we wrote this,’ remarks bassist Andy Cousin, as the band dig ‘Suppertime’ out of the back catalogue) and new songs. In particular, I’m arrested by  ‘Nobody’s Perfect’, a sharp, pithy slice of contemporary rock with one of those classic kick-down-and-accelerate moments as it revs up into the chorus. It’s exactly the kind of song that could - and should - be heard on a regular basis, bursting out of the playlists on radio stations such as XFM. So far the song is unreleased, but when it eventually does appear on CD I certainly hope All About Eve have someone on their side with enough promo-clout to make it happen, because this would make an ideal calling-card for the new, improved Eves.

A large part of the credit for All About Eve’s new, no-shit sound must go to their guitarist Toni, a glam-rocker from Finland who whacks out the chords like he’s channelling Hanoi Rocks. It’s unfortunate that, try as I might, I can’t get a decent photo of him. He’s over on the cloakroom side of the stage, frustratingly out of range of the Borderline’s fancy new computer-controlled lighting rig, which seems to be set up with dance-floor effects in mind, rather than stage lighting. As a result, certain areas of the stage remain in semi-darkness throughout the show. Back in *my* day, when the venue simply had an array of good old fashioned par cans around the stage, this would not have been a  problem! The audience don’t seem to mind - they greet all the songs, old and new, with enthusiastic cheers, and laugh delightedly at the on-stage banter, as the various members of the band try to catch each other out with quips and one-liners. It’s good to see four musicians so obviously at ease with each other, and at ease with their music.

I’m slightly astonished to admit this, but I think I’m turning into an All About Eve fan - and I speak as one who’s diligently endeavoured to avoid the band for the best part of two decades. Thanks to the efforts of friends who’ve been diehard Eves fans for years, I’ve always been able to keep up with the band’s output - one of my ex-girlfriends is even in the video for ‘Wild Hearted Woman’, if you know where to look in the crowd scenes - but I’ve never been particularly grabbed by the music until now. But *this* incarnation of All About Eve really does seem to be cooking with gas. Yep, I’m impressed.

I suspect the band’s biggest problem, as they try to carve out a new career path in the months ahead, will simply be to convince the doubters that things have changed. The band’s reputation as winsome folkies is so firmly entrenched that it will not be easy to shift. The Borderline’s own flyer describes the band as ‘Gothic folk rockers’ - as a catch-all description, that’s not as bad as it might be, but it really doesn’t do All About Eve justice. Re-invented and revitalized, they’re like a new band again. If they can capture a new audience to supplement the long-term faithful, their best times may yet be still to come.

see all the photos from this show here

The official All About Eve site (also contains info on Julianne Regan’s various other musical excursions):

The ludicrously minimalist Manuskript site:

The Borderline:

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: