Standing outside, the Last Days of Decadence looks like any one of the pubs and bars on Shoreditch High Street. But step across the threshold and you enter the glamorously debauched world of a Prohibition-era Speakeasy.
The decor is authentically 1920s, and the drinks too match. A handful of girls at the bar are decked out in full ‘flapper’ outfits, accompanied by boyfriends sporting suspenders and trilbies, although most are uniformed in jeans and t-shirts. Tonight’s entertainment isn’t rigidly anachronistic either, the theme taking second place to putting on a damn good show.
Our compere for the evening is a flamboyantly camp vaudeville act, who sings and baits the crowd in a sequined Union Jack waistcoat. He introduces a Barbarella-themed cabaret dancer and a stand up magician who shocks the audience as frequently as he entertains. Then the act I’m here to see.
Beth and the Black Cat Bones make an understated entrance to the stage. Refreshingly full of energy they start in fifth gear, belting out their 50s-inspired Blues. Lead Vocalist, the eponymous Beth, has a tight leash on her extensive range, delivering the sort of formidable female voice that characterised Motown.
Rhythm is the essential component of anything you want people to dance to and the Black Cat Bones have that covered. The sturdy drums and bass, played by Charles Benfield and Rob Pokorny, are joined by Jess, as rhythm guitarist, for most of the songs. But when she hits her cue, Jess breaks into wild solos, inspiring envy in the heart of every guitar owner in the room. Having earned the nickname ‘B B Queen’, she never strays into indulgence.
Tonight is Jess’ last night, not that it shows. When they finish their set, the audience won’t let them. Often the encore is merely a convention, with Beth and the Black Cat Bones it’s the only way the crowd can satisfy their cravings.
The Last Days of Decadence is a fantastic venue for an act with the originality of Beth and the Black Cat Bones. Velvet curtains on the stage, mirrors on the walls and martinis on the bar remind you that going to see band should feel this indulgent.
All photos by James Munday, for more of the night click here.
For a taste of the magic that was the old Beth and the Black Cat Bones line up, their EP 'Off to the Moon' is available now. For more information or dates of gigs with their new line up, go to www.myspace.com/bethandtheblackcatbones
There's cabaret every Saturday at the Last Days of Decadence and most of it's pretty awesome.