While I was on my way to this December show, as I struggled to locate the venue, a merry group of Santas on bicycles wheeled past a London Fields pub. Despite the combination of its backstreet location, wintry darkness and cartographical incompetence (I can't read maps), I got there in the end. Fortunately the effort proved to be well worth it.

Initiating and illuminating the evening with a kind of good-humoured grunge (guitarist/vocalist Gordon Watson typifying this in a Black Abba t-shirt, with its apt 'Masters of Reality' lettering) were Luminous Bodies. Their darkly powerful guitar and double-drummer-based sound was leavened by the band members' energy and visible enjoyment, a constant reminder there’s a reason it’s called 'playing' music.

Rocket From The Tombs, with vocalist David Thomas and bassist Craig Bell the only original members from the band’s original mid-1970s incarnation, had intensity to burn as they scorched through a set largely drawn from their latest opus, 'Black Record'.

Even so, there were elements of humour. 'Nugefinger' was introduced by Thomas with a rambling anecdote about how, at a low point in his career, Captain Beefheart had temporarily joined the Bar-Kays; meanwhile Ted Nugent, about to embark on a tour, had decided to augment his sound with some soulful horns. Who better to provide this than the Bar-Kays? And so that's how Beefheart (allegedly) ended up backing Ted Nugent...

The song itself unleashed a storming groove of guitars and drums, topped off by Thomas's horn tootling. (Earlier, the apparent failure to promptly locate said "reed" for him had produced a rant which seemed at once serious and that of a pantomime villain - certainly the audience didn’t seem unduly disturbed by his Scrooge-level moaning.)

RFTT originally fragmented into Pere Ubu and the Dead Boys, and strong versions of those bands' respective signature songs ('Final Solution' and 'Sonic Reducer') were included in tonight's set. But despite the acknowledgement of their long history (of which the average audience member looked to have been a loyal part), Thomas and Bell now have a revitalised band thanks to guitarists Buddy Akita and Gary Siperko, plus the boosting power of drummer Steve Mehlman. (In his version of an Aidan Turner 'Poldark' moment, near the end he stood up, stripped off his t-shirt and wrung out a testifying deluge of sweat over his kit.)

Thomas, possibly due to health problems, was seated for the majority of the night. But that unique wheedling voice and behemothic body continue to carry authority and lock the attention. RFTT have a heritage, but performances like this show they’re still heading onwards, building their posterity.

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Commenting On: London Fields Brewery, London, 12/12/2015 - Rocket From The Tombs

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