Shouting, standing, boogieing in the boxes, and – of course! – singing along, the crowd out for Chas & Dave on Wednesday night were perhaps the rowdiest that Richmond Theatre’s seen for a while, with the theatre turned for the duration of the show into pretty much the equivalent of an East End boozer.
The great love and affection that many have for Messrs Hodges and Peacock has dimmed not a jot over the years. And it’s not hard to see why, for the duo’s “rockney” mix - boogie woogie, skiffle, pub singalong, a spot of music hall - is as distinctive as it is irresistible, a throwback to vibrant working-class culture that still feels surprisingly fresh. In fact, in doing their own thing so brilliantly, honestly and unapologetically, I’d argue that Chas & Dave – sampled by Eminem, covered by Tori, parodied by The Two Ronnies, openers for Led Zep and inspiration to Libertines - are pretty much as punk as you can get.
Whipping briskly through the two-hour set, the pair – accompanied by Chas’s son Nik, dynamic on drums – were in storming form, delivering a mix of covers and originals that passed from New Orleans to Edmonton Green (via Margate, natch) and demonstrated the strength of the pair’s musicianship, which has so often been overlooked. “We’re gonna be doin’ everything tonight,” Hodges promised, and the pledge was pretty much kept up, as the set started with their 70s material, including a cover of Clarence “Frogman” Henry’s “I Don’t Know Why (But I Do)” and a rollicking and rapturously received “Gertcha”.
The pair are great at covers, actually, giving each song their distinctive stamp and performing the (mostly US) material without recourse to American accents (take heed Adele et al., ya fakers). A chunky “When Two Worlds Collide” (from their new album, That's What Happens ) was sublime, showcasing the interplay of Hodges's great piano-playing with Peacock's supple bass at its best, while arrangements of “My Blue Heaven” and “The Sunshine of Your Smile” were also pleasingly inventive.
Still, it’s their own material - quirky, funny, full of affectionate detail and rapid-fire word-play - that most have really come to hear, and the second half – beginning with a double of “London Girls” and “Margate” that drove the young woman in front of us into near-orgasmic raptures of delight – was simply a blast, offering a break-neck “Diddle Um Song,” a cheeky “Rabbit,” a spontaneous “That’s What I Like Mick (The Sandwich Song)” when someone called for it, and that immortal kiss-off “Ain’t No Pleasing You”, before "The Sideboard Song” brought the night to a raucous close.
If there’s a criticism to be made, it’s that the pair tend to go full throttle for the whole show when modulating the set with some quieter numbers (as their albums tend to do) might give a fuller sense of their artistry. That artistry should not be underestimated, though. And neither should the cathartic, empowering potential of a mass singalong of “Ain’t No Pleasing You.” Catch 'em where you can. Altogether now…