The place. First impressions: it was very cold (air con on way too high), drinks were very pricey (£12.20 for 2 drinks) and quite empty until around 11.30pm. Also, the steps round the VIP area were not well-marked, hence an almost spectacular tripping display early on in the evening (and no, it wasn’t the very expensive drinks!). The bar staff were friendly, but the security staff were a mixed bag – I must give Rehan a mention as he was friendly and kindly let us sit at a VIP table as I was reviewing the show and we were very cold, but his jobsworthy team-mate refused to let a colleague of mine talk to me in the VIP area without a wristband – despite the area being virtually empty (incidentally, my colleague was an internationally acclaimed slam poetry award winner, and apart from being rebuffed for the VIP area also wasn’t too impressed at being virtually strip-searched upon entry). Security is obviously tight here and the visit of police and sniffer dogs during the main set was alarming although reassuring that they are taking it seriously and promoting a safe environment.
Now to the music – the main act for the evening were the Green Onions Blues Brothers Tribute band. I must confess I’m not the greatest fan of the Blues Brothers style of music, preferring Motown soul, and to be honest although these guys were polished and acoustically very good they did not change my mind – I almost cringed during the rendition of the theme to ‘Rawhide’ in the first half, however the second half of the show was more impressive and enjoyable, including brilliant performances of Play That Funky Music, Santa Claus is Coming To Town, and finishing off with Soul Man. In a gig of two halves, the finale was definitely better for me.
The DJ for the evening was the consistently awesome crowd-pleaser Tony Nanton, who did a great set particularly in the interval between the Green Onions sets – playing an enjoyable mix of music, although I have voiced my disapproval of the Sweet Soul Music/Scar Tissue mix which, although great tunes individually, did not sit well together – however he made up for this with other favourite tunes such as Seven Nation Army, Goldigger, and a flawless mix of Another One Bites the Dust/Rappers Delight. I was also delighted to hear Buffalo Stance for the first time in years, and my friend celebrated by donning her parka Neneh Cherry-style (although she insisted this was due to the air-con again).
Overall a good night out, the Regal is an enjoyable location, but they need to sort out the air con, the consistency of the security and the drinks prices if they are to have a long-standing relationship with the Cowley Road crowd.