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Live Music Review: Johnny and the Raindrops at The Polish Eagle Club

3 October 18 words: Adrian Shaw

After entertaining families for ten years, Johnny and the Raindrops celebrated by playing a packed-out show at The Polish Eagle Club in Sherwood. Our writer Adrian Shaw went along to join in on all the fun...

Having interviewed Liam, better known by his stage name ‘Johnny’, a few months ago for the mag, it was a privilege to cover their tenth anniversary performance this September at The Polish Eagle Club. It was a great birthday party for the band; the audience was packed with young kids and their parents, and a lot of cake was evidently consumed.

I arrived early at the venue, greeted by the Liam and the band as they sound-checked and warmed up. Also apparent was the great friends and family support they enjoy, with helpers both young and old. By the time the performance began there were hundreds inside, or so it seemed - shrill screams of excitement rent the air, from kids and adults alike.

As the crowd grew, I found that I had to move from the initial table I had parked myself at, to a distant chair, and then, keeping with the fact that I was reporting on the gig, realised I should keep nearer the stage. I relocated to an empty patch of space where I leaned up against a wall to observe the band and the busy dancefloor.

It was immediately obvious that most of the people and kids present had been before, many times, over the past ten years that Johnny and the Raindrops have been making their unique contribution to kid’s entertainment in Nottingham. Everyone seemed to know the form; although, some surprise goodies were to be presented for the crowd’s total enjoyment. Also, several previous band-members turned-up to perform with the rest of the group on stage. The Raindrops played ‘Let’s Make a Band’, something of a theme tune, with Johnny on vocals, and the kids loudly joining in.

Musically and lyrically, and with many influences from different genres, their set became filled with non-stop action, crowd-pleaser after crowd-pleaser. The set also included their song ‘Johnny Plays Air-Guitar’ – with the kids joining in with Johnny and his partner Sarah, also very-much involved on-stage, as they swirled and waved their arms in traditional air-guitar mode, repeatedly jumping up-and down throughout the performance. Previous major songs in the band’s repertoire flowed into old favourites like the ‘Teddy Bear in the Washing-Machine’, with lots of little teddies being thrown around, and the ‘Johnny and The Pirates Song’, with the whole band in pirate costume. Other sources were being freely drawn-upon and developed in putting across Liam’s words and music. Having often very gifted current and past guitar performers in the band has also clearly helped.

What became very evident all the way through, was the way in which Liam got the kids involved and contributing to their own entertainment, including his prompts to ‘give yourself a clap’ and other verbal and gestural clues and tips, which encouraged the development of future audience participation. Additionally, these cues were also highly important for the kids’ education and social development – ideas and themes which will develop and contribute to their eventual adulthood. Almost nothing seemed to happen which was not with a view in mind; there was a logic to this, it seemed. I was very moved at the end by the noticeable talent and commitment to kids’ music, and also impressed by the themes being developed along the way. Here, the parents had a role to play; I noted the semi-circle around their children helping to keep them looking towards the stage. The kids got really involved, and since some of them had older siblings, who were also keen fans from when they were smaller, Johnny and his band had their attention overall. Sarah was, therefore, a real guide on the boards and helped the kids by showing the movements, singing along and acting-out the songs.

In line with a kind of musical didacticism, the band’s lessons came through in their many old favourites and new ones in the repertoire. Delivery was also varied and smart as shown in their clever lyrics with puns and some mildly cheeky rhymes thrown in for good measure, such as ‘rude’ and ‘poo’, which clearly amuses kids. Counting songs are also a regular occurrence in their set; a song called ‘Ten Little Fingers’ was performed with giant red hands worn on-stage, and ten kids from the audience lined up as the fingers. Audience interaction was abound in the show; the ‘Vegetable’ song had kids as vegetables, ‘Shine a Light’ and the song about a Little Wandering Asteroid touring the Solar System was performed with kids holding up Planet Cards - the latter being a favourite on the night, with a whirling star-field and other lights playing around the walls and floor to add effect. This afternoon, everyone was a star.

This coming Christmas, Johnny & the Raindrops will, once again, be performing their annual show here, at the Polish Eagle Club. So, don’t forget to get your tickets; the music’s certainly in my head. 

You can read Adrian's interview with the band here

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