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Live Music Review: ESG, Brudenell Social Club

First heard in the early 1980s, ESG's clatter-funk still sounds like the future

Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

BILLED as their last-ever appearance in Britain, this gig features ESG founder member Renee Scroggins, who shouldn’t even be here. She’s under heavy orders not to fly after a near-fatal pulmonary incident last year.

Now pushing 60, she still has the vim which propelled her and her two Bronx sisters Marie and Valerie and neighbourhood friend Tito Libran to create the defining sound of New York in the early 1980s.

Tonight she’s joined by daughter Nicole on bass and son Nicholas on percussion and, along with hyperactive drummer David Miles, they summon a volcanic groove.

A huge mixed crowd has crammed into this working man’s club to hear ESG’s genre-straddling clatter-funk, which most definitely belongs to the north. The group’s debut EP was cut a stone’s throw across the Pennines in 1981 and released on Tony Wilson’s Factory label. Seminal tracks Moody, You’re No Good and UFO were recorded in single takes with de facto in-house producer Martin Hannett.

Back then ESG sounded like the future and they have remained faithful to that early template. All three songs are played tonight with the same ferocious Latin-tinged urgency, UFO’s oft sampled guitar line feeling even more like an uncanny riposte to the two-note shred of The Buzzcocks’ Boredom.

Incendiary versions of Dance and You Make No Sense have the audience jumping about. The temperature soars with the brush-off genius of Erase You, the stuttering punk-funk of Tiny Sticks and the insane body-impacting groove of The Beat.

Songs from later albums, notably 2017’s barbed-wire kiss-off Closure, sound fresh-minted in the group’s trademark stripped-down sound.

There's a great story about Renee meeting an unnamed rapper who says her guitar sound on UFO really spoke to him. “I hope it said for you to pay me,” she is reported to have told him.

Tonight ESG are paid in full.


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