- The Wicked Whispers
This particular evening at Leaf feels like a true cult affair, for psych pioneers KALEIDOSCOPE didn’t gain their sort of status through the usual kind of mass-exposed “forgotten bands of the 60s you really need to hear” type clickbaitery, but remain, rather, a gem still mostly buried in the slag-heap of the decade’s cast-offs.
Before the main event, however, THE WICKED WHISPERS open backed by appropriately kaleidoscopic visuals, and seem apparently to have brought a fanbase of their own in the form of a gaggle of screaming devotees who lap up every tune like they’ve just announced Zayn Malik to join them on keytar. The band themselves are fantastic performers, if slightly in the shadow of their home city. Amanda Lavender feels like a Coral B-side while frontman Michael Murphy finds more than a touch of Gerry Marsden in his vocal. To find sound-alikes in the city’s true greats is no bad thing, however, and there’s more than enough psych-pop brilliance here for the set to be hugely enjoyable – particularly in Steven Penn’s Nuggets-worthy organ.
There are two major problems with The Wicked Whispers’ set, however, foremost the fact that Murphy’s guitar isn’t actually switched on. Though he poses and postures as fingers appear to flick out flashes of incendiary rhythm guitar, we just can’t actually hear anything, and that the band themselves don’t actually notice is both unfortunate and, if we’re being cruel, hilariously farcical. As for the other problem, we’ll get to that in a bit.
As the hour of their long-awaited set draws nigh, those in attendance for the headliners – and the gig is by no means a sell-out – seem to be saying the same kind of things: “I can’t believe I’m seeing this live”, “I never thought this day would come” and other such rabid expulsions of fawning adoration to befit a music-smitten fanboy a third of most of their ages. Although of course it’s a great shame that Kaleidoscope never hit the heights of Floyd and co there’s a silver lining of sorts in that they can still get away with a low-key gig of such intimacy.
Low-key is certainly the word – take for example the visual accompaniment to the set: quite literally a laptop slideshow of Google images of the band in their prime. There’s also the fact that there’s only one member of the original band onstage, alongside four far younger musicians, original leader Peter Daltrey, garbed in a dapper velvet blazer and cravat, to place him somewhere between the best Doctor Who never cast and an acid casualty Fagin.
All that pales into significance after an opening rendition of Aries, however, Daltrey’s voice still as woozily beautiful as ever, and as he and his band – excellent musicians, it must be said – drift through the legends’ stellar catalogue with aplomb, the uncompromising psychedelia of Snapdragon, Music and other such outings holding their own alongside a simply epic Sky Children.
With tributes paid to the late Cynthia Lennon and Daltrey’s evident love for Liverpool quite clearly reciprocated, it’s a truly heartening night; save, that is, for that aforementioned second problem: that the support’s small group of fans decide to chat loudly and inanely for the entirety of Kaleidoscope’s set. Though it’s clearly no fault of The Wicked Whispers, it’s infuriating, and frankly completely disrespectful that, were it not for the headliners’ magisterial brilliance, a transcendent night of psychedelia at its most phenomenal may have been blunted.