Theatre Royal – all painted smiles & tight trousers

Theatre Royal live @ Eagle Tavern, Rochester Kent Sunday 5th December, 2010
Theatre Royal live @ Eagle Tavern, Rochester Kent

Theatre Royal live @ Eagle Tavern, Rochester Kent Sunday 5th December, 2010

Theatre Royal are from Medway in Kent and sound brilliant! Their music echoes British guitar influences from The Small Faces to Echo & The Bunnymen, and their live set comprises of several styles that knit tightly together well and their live performance tonight was professional and solid.  Unfortunately the small pub was only half full which says much more about Medway apathy than it does the quality of Theatre Royal.

Guitarist and lead singer Oliver Burgess was apparently struggling with a sore throat but not to the detriment of the performances. Theatre Royal are Oliver Burgess (Vocals/Guitar), Robbie Wilkinson (Guitar/Vocals), Brendan Esmonde (Bass) and Jon Gibbs (Drums), who were occasionally joined by a trumpet player that gave the songs an extra zest.

I wasn’t familiar with any of their songs before the gig but the slow tempo of ‘Painted Smile’ stood out and was a favourite with some drunken groupies who joined in with the chorus: “I’ll be right where you left me” (that will probably be hanging on to the bar or toilet bowl, depending how long you leave them!)

‘Painted Smile’ is a perfect guitar-led indie pop song with an alt-country edge and some great harmonies that wouldn’t sound amiss in a set list from and early 1980’s Smiths gig.  But what stands out here is that Theatre Royal are not looking to be labelled this or that and quite obviously aren’t afraid of playing different styles; and they do that so well.  Whether it be ‘I’m The One’ or ‘Turn To Rust’ with its unabashed sixties influence or the pop rock anthemic and wonderfully titled ‘Sit Me Under The Circling Vultures Lay Me Out To Die‘, reminiscent of The Alarm (who remembers them?) or leaning towards post-punk rock of The Clash (‘Foreign Shores’) or even hints of Theatre Of Hate (‘Cold Charity’).

Oliver Burgess & Robbie Wilkinson’s voices are a perfect match, whether on the gentle ‘Painted Smile’ or more up tempo songs like ‘If You Could Stand Up’.  But my favourite song of the night was possibly the most aggressive of the set, ‘Foreign Shores’ with its post-punk aggression of The Clash circa Tommy Gun. Complete with a perfect twin vocal performance but this time through gritted teeth and leg thumping angst.


4 thoughts on “Theatre Royal – all painted smiles & tight trousers”

  1. Thanks for the review Terry. Billy was never in the band, but we formed the band after breaking into the theatre alongside him in Chatham. The performances were filmed for a documenary by Dave Wise called ‘final curtain at the Theatre Royal’.

  2. Sorry for the mistake re: Billy Childish. I read this in an article by Richard Bachelor, so assumed it was true:

    “Theatre Royal originally comprised of ‘Chatham Jack’ Billy Childish and Lupen Crook, whose music I couldn’t praise enough a few months ago. A year has passed since they parted ways and now Oliver Burgess and Robbie Wilkinson are leading the front line.”

  3. Thanks for your kind review!!! Don’t worry you’re not the first person to make that mistake! The film Oliver is speaking of is absolutely fantastic, you should google it to find it and check out some of Dave’s other stuff too (the man’s one of Medway’s finest (hiddenish!!) talents!)

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