Gig review: Paul Vickers & The Leg, Mary King’s Close, Edinburgh

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OUTSIDE, the band are throwing flour at one another to get that authentic “just risen from a deathly slumber” look.

At the entrance to the venue we’re greeted by the lead vocalist, who tells us in his best tour guide’s voice to beware of potential spikes through the head as we descend into the depths. Edinburgh’s Paul Vickers and The Leg are no ordinary group, so why should we find them in just any ordinary venue? Why not, instead, in a crypt-like antechamber on the path down to Edinburgh’s premier plague pit turned tourist attraction, Mary King’s Close?

This was a very special show, not for the location alone, but also for the band’s mastery of their own distinctive style and aesthetic.

Vickers, wild-haired but friendly of voice when speaking, became a growling, possessed spirit when singing, whether it be the sadistic rag of Itchy Grumble or the loudhailer-blasted declamations of Somewhere Between No and Yes.

The acoustics of the tiny room meant that this wall of thumping drums, scratching cello and Dan Mutch’s squealing mandolin felt uncomfortable in their closeness.

That’s a very good thing, given the fused sense of unsettling Victoriana and frantic frontiersman bluegrass in this wonderful music, from The Dangerous Itch’s twisted update of the Kinks’ Victoria to When the Wand is Wild’s fearsome impersonation of Herb Alpert joining the Manson Family.

Rating: ****