White Eagle Hall, NJ
April 2nd, 2022
By Mace Griffin
I put a lot of trust in the floorboards of White Eagle Hall. “Woke Up This Mornin’ and Got Some Gabagool” plays on the speakers, and it is clear the band has leaned full tilt into embracing the Jersey stereotypes while they play.
The stage glows red and all fall silent as we hear of our protagonists, about to enter the cage. The announcer tells us of the band that hails from England and assures us that they are ready to rumble. The one, the only, Black Hellfire Midi. The crowd goes wild, and we see our lightweight champions. On the left, we have the ivory banger, Seth Evans, in a t-shirt and sweats. Next up, is the wily Cameron Picton, adorned with a vintage-boxer mustache, a button-up, and a red tie. He brandishes his guitar. In the middle of the ring, we have Geordie Greep, full of gumption, sporting a button-up, pinstripe pants, and large sunglasses – surely to hide his poker face. On saxophone, we have the rowdy Kaidi Akinnibi, dapper head to toe in a golden embroidered jacket, a white tank, slacks, and dress shoes, polished and ready to give out shiners. Lastly, on drums, we have the quick-fisted Morgan Simpson, in a white tank, cut-offs, and perhaps the readiest to rumble attitude.
The ensemble starts pumping out “John L”, creating a tense and cataclysmic stage. The crowd starts jumping, and with each landing, you feel the floorboards bend and see the microphones bobbing up and down like buoys in the ocean. I have felt less bouncing on a trampoline. The band starts tussling with their instruments, getting ready to rough house. Throughout the set, the band takes turns taunting one another in a clearing on the stage. They do sport goofy mugs that say, “what are you going to do about it” and spar back and forth with intense melodies. Their tones are sharp and harsh, holding the boys back from one another, trying to keep a fight from breaking out.
Geordie Greep takes the post as an announcer, calling in another contender. A new challenger approaches. Lewis Evans, from Black Country, New Road joins the outfit and plays a mean slide whistle, tooting out the bane of Guitar Center employees, “Smoke on the Water”. Tempos and tempers cool only slightly on the next song, “Welcome to Hell”, lovingly written as “Welcome to Newark” on the setlist.
Kaidi Akinnibi is an incredible showman and can make his saxophone scream like a man wounded in battle. He frequently takes his brassy brashness to the fans in the crowd. The audience responds in riotous approval and headbangs. Geordie Greep repeatedly changes from sunglasses on to sunglasses off, still able to play his guitar with an incredible procession. The oversized shades add a silly suaveness. Mid-show, he takes a few swigs from a flask. Each member of the band has boyish charm, though two are dressed like accountants, they posture and play like children in a schoolyard. It makes you wonder if maybe the band is possibly having even more fun playing with one another than the horde of fans in the packed auditorium.
Morgan Simpson is in absolute control of his drum set and does an excellent job keeping the band in rhythm. The rapport each of these members has with one another is a thing to marvel at and has surely helped them create their dynamic and influential sound. Though he and Seth Evans can’t leave their post at their instruments to tango in the middle stage, you can tell they are having an excellent time and are giving it their all. Each member plays their part with near perfection that can only come from frequent rehearsal, but they act as excited about each tune as if it is their first time unveiling it. It is a show where you leave more awake at midnight than when you entered at seven.
The show’s attendees were lucky enough to hear several unreleased but beloved Black Midi songs, like “Welcome to Hell”, “Lumps”, “Dangerous Liasons”, “Still”, “Eat Men, Eat” (written as “Eat, Gabagool, Eat”), “Sugar/Tzu”, and “Defense” (written as “The Defense of Junior Soprano”).
After several intimidation dances, instrumental breakdowns, and unparallel performance, they close the show with “953”. Red flashes on stage, pupils dilate, pulses quicken. They tackle the song with aplomb, gusto, and vigor. The crowd is raging and a pit to hell forms in front of the stage. The audience cries mercy. The brawl is over.
The band closes the song out and leaves the match. Geordie Greepdorns adorns his leather jacket, and sunglasses on, and puts an unlit cigarette that was on standby in his mouth, exiting the ring.
All Photos by Mace Griffin