Review: Jim Bob at The Haunt, Brighton

A full room at Brighton’s seafront venue, The Haunt, greeted former Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine frontman and now acclaimed author, Jim Bob, as he stepped onto the stage to perform acoustic versions of Carter songs and solo offerings.

What transpired was a magnificent, 90-minute singalong, with the Carter tunes being belted out at breakneck speed. The crowd provided the oh-oh-oh-oh‘s of Midnight on the Murder Mile and the la-la-la‘s of Billy’s Smart Circus as they delighted in hearing these acoustic re-workings of songs that soundtracked their younger years. Jim’s solo compositions sounded great as well, with a version of Victim especially impressive, during which he was joined on piano by support act and friend, the excellent Chris T-T. The piano rendering of Johnny Cash was also beautiful and included a Bowie tribute at its conclusion. Another touching tribute came in the form of This Is How it Feels by The Inspiral Carpets, whose drummer Craig Gill died this November.

Between songs, Jim Bob was engaging and funny. He talked about the x-rated graffiti in the dressing room, threw in a cheeky Adam Buxton reference while talking about his longtime partner (“my wife“) and skirted around the rivalry between his local football team and Brighton & Hove Albion. The comedy moment of the night came when a punter interrupted the gig at its midway point to ask for an autograph. It turned out he couldn’t wait until the end of the show because of the Southern train strike. “Well at least that’s something we can all agree on,” Jim said in reference to the aforementioned football rivalry. “We all fucking hate Southern.” Cue massive cheer.

Back in the early 90s, Carter were a very important band to many disaffected people. They sang about subjects such as Thatcher, AIDS, the poll tax riots and racism and they did so with wit, intelligence, honesty and passion. Attending a Carter gig was empowering and thrilling. In those days, Jim Bob could have told the crowd to walk out of the doors and storm the Government and they’d have done it. The fact that, a quarter of a Century on, Carter’s frontman is still selling out venues around the country proves how much their songs mean to people. Tonight they may have been delivered acoustically rather than though chainsaw guitars, but the likes of Billy’s Smart Circus and The Only Looney Left in Town still resonated in a time when the world is being torn apart by Brexit, Farage, Trump, The Daily Mail and so on. “They’ll plant the seeds that will grow in time, and start the disease that will poison their minds, fill them up with hatred…” 

After rattling off indie classics The Only Living Boy in New Cross, Sheriff Fatman and GI Blues, Jim set off the bubble machine and closed the evening with a triumphant version of Touchy Feely. The line, “We’ve got faith, we’ve got hope, we’re learning how to cope,” has never sounded as important as it does at the end of 2016. It might not have quite sparked the crowd into storming Downing Street on this cold December night (besides, there was a train strike, how would we even have got there?) but as we all yelled “It feels so good” at the top of our lungs, we experienced the true warmth of belonging, huddled together with like-minded, empathetic people. And in this fragmented country where many of us feel utterly lost at the moment, that’s just as important.

bobby townsend


Words and picture by Bobby Townsend.