Tony Blair is famously remembered by fans of tonight’s band not just for being British Prime Minister, but also for including ‘Cancel Today’ among his chosen records to play on BBC Radio’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ (allegedly a favorite of the PM before Commons ‘Question Time). Ezio have been around a while now making great music, with well crafted lyrics and a healthy dose of Italian/Cambridge mixed humour. Why, with so much praise, are they still playing The Harmonie and not The Cologne Arena? Maybe it’s down to the lack of glitter and glamour – “This is advertised as a Christmas Show” admits Ezio Lunedei early in tonight’s set. “But that’s only because we’re playing it now, around Christmas, There’s no tinsel or Santa Outfits” What there is though are great lyrics, super music, and the best between-song banter I’ve heard on a musical stage. Morecambe & Wise meet Bob Dylan? Well, maybe not. But the former didn’t play guitar like Ezio and Booga and the latter isn’t renowned for between song joviality. Simply put – Ezio are a unique experience of the best kind as Tuesday’s Harmonie concert proved.
As noted earlier, these guys don’t have any interest in star allure. Even before the show begins, Ezio Lunedei is to be found behind the souvenir table selling CD’s to early arrivals. When I ask if there will be a be a new release soon he’s doubtful, but he’s sure that whenever something new does come out, it will be in a form you can take home in your pocket or bag. Spotify etc? “Killing the music scene” he sighs. So which CD should I buy? (there is no shortage of past releases laid out before me). “If you’ve got the later ones try this one” he says, handing me a copy of 2003’s ‘The making of Mr Spoons’. It’s a cracking CD too, but in it’s original form, also typical Ezio. There was a 17 minute break following track 11, after which came a bonus and secret classic track from Ezio – ‘The further we stretch’. In short, you never quite know what you’ll get when you’re dealing with Mark Fowell (alias ‘Booga’) and Ezio Lunedei. But that’s the fun of it. Sadly the ‘bonus’ track seems to have been erased from the CD version.
Why am I standing in the front row when the lights go down and the duo step onto the Harmonie stage? I know I will be ‘fair game’ for the man with the Takamine acoustic peering down at me already through round spectacles. I’m here to get some pictures of course, and suddenly it occurs to me that I really should have asked for permission to actually take pictures from Ezio himself. Would that have saved me? Probably not. The woman to my left was noticed first as Ezio declared, after seeing her T-shirt, ‘Superdry!’ or the guy to my right who was getting the hand moves to ‘The Further we Stretch’ all wrong (or all right if you’re looking for some humour). I decide to grab pictures when Ezio wasn’t looking – except he’s always looking…
We’re only a few minutes into the set when Ezio asks the people talking loudly at the bar if his music is interrupting them? I think I’ll wait just a bit longer for those photos… It’s no hardship though. The music is great. The duo seem to improvise around each other in some sort of musical sparring ritual, before suddenly hitting the ‘perfect wave’, a groove of two guitars in perfect accord. Credit here particularly to Mr ‘Booga’ Fowell. The band’s last concert together was here in Bonn at the Kunstrasen as support to Alanis Morrissette. Soon after, Fowell ended up with a leg in plaster (“It’s a long story” he answers later when I ask). Tonight he’s sat on a bar stool, but still managing to find the jazzy groove he’s so good at, and still playing the fall guy for his partners joking. Not that he doesn’t get his own word in at the end: “You look like you’re going down the Jobcentre in that jacket” from Ezio is countered in fine style by Booga – “I probably will be after tonight’s show…” I am starting to like this duo, as much between as during the songs.
There is some excellent songwriting here too. More mainstream pop like ‘Dirty Little Secret’ and ‘Indians’ is mixed in with lengthier numbers, notably without any sign of a set-list, as Ezio regularly asks for, and gets, ‘requests’ shouted to him. One of these is that celebration to drunken mispent youth ‘Bicycle’ with it’s tale of cycling serenely home after a few pints:
“I love being drunk on my bicycle. It makes me feel, just like I can fly
There’s the emotion-charged ballad ‘Thousand Years’ to show that the dynamics of this dynamic duo’s music can be tuned to slower, more thoughtful, numbers, before ‘Thirty and confused’ turns the tempo straight back up and into one of those aforementioned perfect waves, when this happens the duo seem like their playing arms are being controlled by a single set of neuro-impulses. Put Ezio and Booga on a stage together blindfolded and they’d still be in perfect harmony (and I could take pictures in safety!)
The closing numbers were all called out for earlier, so it’s good to hear the band make good on their promise. ‘Holding you now’ is a medium paced ballad of the best pop pedigree. Not surprisingly there is wonderfully texted ‘Accordion Girl’ amongst the encores, and before you can say “More… more…!” Mr Lunedei and Mr Fowell are back selling CD’s and signing autographs. “Maybe the next CD will be a live one…” muses Ezio when I ask. Or maybe not. One thing I’ve learned this evening is that with Ezio the unexpected is expected. When Booga asks if I got any good photos, I admit that I was too nervous about catching the eye and the ire of the man with the round spectacles. “Yeah. He can be a right a**hole!” replies Booga with a smile. Shall I quote you on that? I ask. “Please do. I tell him myself anyway” laughs the big man, before finding a seat to rest that strapped up left leg. My advice is to check out Ezio if they’re in your neighbourhood – but you might want to avoid the front row if you’re a wallflower.