Scotch and water, claret and blues – The Spin Doctors at Burnley Mechanics

Barron's Night: Spin Doctors' vocalist Chris Barrow stretches out  (Photo:

Barron’s Night: Spin Doctors’ vocalist Chris Barrow stretches out on a previous date (Photo:

I remember a lad from Detroit that I met on my travels who genuinely seemed to think Monty Python’s Flying Circus was a documentary, believing all Brits wore bowler hats and probably had ludicrous walks to match.

In no way am I suggesting Chris Barron falls into that category, but his recollections of an Australian childhood before he relocated to New Jersey included lots of UK television.

That became something of a talking point at Burnley Mechanics, Chris first measuring his appreciation of Tom Baker as the ultimate Dr Who against his daughter’s love for David Tennant in that role.

Then he admitted to this East Lancs audience he’d been saying ‘ecky thump’ all day, since tackling a black pudding for his breakfast, inspired by early memories of The Goodies.

Claret Date: Eric, Aaron, Mark and Chris take in the delights of Burnley (Photo:

Claret Date: Eric, Aaron, Mark and Chris take in the delights of Burnley (Photo:

But he wasn’t patronising his flat-capped audience, just engaging a little humour and all-round good-blokeness.

And the same went for the rest of the band, as illustrated by the amount of time they spent answering questions and signing all manner of merchandise and more after a hectic and thoroughly entertaining, impassioned set.

It was The Spin Doctors’ only date in Northern England this time around, a precursor for shows at Croydon’s Fairfield Halls (Friday, February 21) and Islington The Garage (Saturday, February 22).

Chris and his band-mates – ‘the original Spin Doctors’, he told us proudly between songs on at least a couple of occasions – are touring their most recent long player, If The River Was Whiskey, a riotous return to their blues roots.

And 20-plus years after stealing British hearts with Pocket Full of Kryptonite, there was proof – if needed – that this was far more than a retro band still dining out on the success of a few early ‘90s hits.

spin kryptoniteTrue enough that the joint was jumping when they treated us to Jimmy Olsen’s Blues, Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong, What Time Is It? and Two Princes, but there was a rightful reverence for the newer material too.

That included runs through many of the latest album’s highlights, not least Some Other Man InsteadIf The River Was WhiskeyTraction Blues, About a Train and The Drop, when the band seemed at their most inspired.

What’s more, this four-piece are intrinsically likeable – as proved by the way they mingled with the fans afterwards. No rock star stand-off here.

It was a perfect-sized venue. The only problem was that the gig was pretty poorly attended. It was far from empty, but the band deserved a sell-out.

All the better for those of us who made the effort though, and this New York City outfit certainly didn’t give anything less than their best.

Sublime Canadian guitarist Eric Schenkman’s fingers were a blur at times, this dead-ringer for Barcelona star Carles Puyol chopping out those chords and solos, with Chris regularly at his side pulling the faces that went with the shapes.

Aaron Comess, behind his drum kit, and Mark White, effortlessly cool on bass, drove the show perfectly, and had their own starring spots under the lights too.

Then there were those splendid vocals from Chris, a livewire with a doctorate in yoga and the kind of leg elasticity that suggests he could be on ice and snow in Sochi this week.

When I got home I reminded myself how they looked back in ’91, watching a few old videos. Yeah, they’re a little older now, but no less youthful and inspired, and their brand of raunchy rhythm and blues never really ages.

Between songs, Chris charmed us with his dodgy English accent – not least remarking on one young admirer down the front being ‘a nice bit of crumpet’ – and a few more stories.

There were a few other surprises too, not least the band’s assured version of The Beatles’ I Want You (She’s So Heavy).

Drum Cam: Aaron's view at the Burnley Mechanics (Photo:

Drum Cam: Aaron’s view at the Burnley Mechanics (Photo:

Someone passed up a Norwegian-style woolly ski hat so Chris could roll back the years for Two Princes, and he still looked the part.

That was followed by a mighty jam as the band flexed their musical muscles, before their return for a show-stopping Scotch and Water Blues and a stonking Yo Mama’s A Pajama.

And hopefully next time they return to the North-West, the audience will be jostling for space, whatever the venue.

whiskeyFor an illuminating writewyattuk interview with Chris Barron, head here.

To find out more about the UK tour and all the latest from the band, head to

And to get a taste of the Spin Doctors in 2014, try this video link to the title track of their latest album.

About writewyattuk

A freelance writer and family man being swept along on a wave of advanced technology, but somehow clinging on to reality. It's only a matter of time ... A highly-motivated scribbler with a background in journalism, business and life itself. Away from the features, interviews and reviews you see here, I tackle novels, short stories, copywriting, ghost-writing, plus TV, radio and film scripts for adults and children. I'm also available for assignments and write/research for magazines, newspapers, press releases and webpages on a vast range of subjects. You can also follow me on Facebook via and on Twitter via @writewyattuk. Legally speaking, all content of this blog (unless otherwise stated) is the intellectual property of Malcolm Wyatt and may only be reproduced with permission.
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