Welcome to the church of Chubby. When Ted Horowitz took on the mantle of Popa Chubby some two decades ago he broke the mould. In a contemporary culture obsessed with phoney idols and heroes of limited ability and interest, Chubby flies in the face of the mundane, the frivolous and the down right hyped, hitting the stage like a whirlwind before settling into a more considered groove with his road tested power trio.
Quite simply Chubby is that rare phenomenon of a truly unique artist. This doesn’t just extend to his urbane image – a mix of biker, beef, boogie and blues – but rather it is predicated on real vision and an open minded approach to music that incorporates Rock, Surf, 50’s retro, Metal, Hard Rock, and blues.
By using his wide definition of the blues – ‘Black Sabbath and Motorhead are blues bands, its all rock & roll but it comes from the blues’ – Chubby’s spends all his considerable energy connecting with his audience. And at the Beaverwood he did precisely that through a mix of high octane rocking, an occasional dip into the blues via some scorching slide guitar work and ultimately he landed a knockout punch with Motorhead’s ‘Ace of Spades’. And at the end he accepted his deserved ovation like a prize fighter claiming his belt.
Chubby set out his standards by playing the title track of his new album. He counted in the stop time crunching rock of ‘The Fight Is On’, with a warrior like raised arm. Then there was his take on ‘Hey Joe’ which featured an extra Chubby guitar line or two in a different reading from the norm. PC doesn’t slavishly copy Jimi but takes the core of the song, works out its inherent feel and structure and then ‘Chubbifies’ it by applying physical theatre to some big toned guitar playing and a rich expressive voice. Jimi would surely have smiled.
There was also room for an ode to the bikers in the room on the instrumental ‘Steel Horse Serenade’ which featured repeated crunching chords, Thin Lizzy style runs and a sumptuous tone. This was the one defining number of the evening where Chubby’s body language totally engaged the crowd as he rocked from side to side, step to step, momentarily buried in total concentration and occasionally breaking the spell with some comical facial contortions that spoke a thousand words. In the space of one song he metaphorically grabbed the audience by their lapels and held them in his grip for the rest of the night. For this was rock as it should be played, with raw passion, lots of edge, real excitement and kick ass overdrive.
He launched into some gruff rasping vocals and dazzling slide guitar on the tough ‘Love Machine’, and in contrast explored some genuine emotional moments on another unlikely but totally committed version of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’. But perhaps the highlight came in the shape of the autobiographical ‘NYC1977’ which included the classic line from Lou Reed’s ‘Walk on the Wild Side’. Such an iconic musical reference could only work in the hands of a character such as Chubby who has made his living on the streets of New York.
By the end he’d switched from guitar to drums and sparred with the excellent Joe Jackson drummer Dan Hickey in an unlikely duet. And with time running out Chubby called out his Swiss guitar playing driver Paul Rivelli for a closing jam to top a truly magical night.
Earlier the exceptional Rock/Blues power trio Virgil & the Accelerators rocked the house with an inspired set. With a muscular rhythm section topped by Virgil’s intense incendiary licks, VATA are on the up escalator.
Review by Pete Feenstra