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Groucho Club, London, 17/2/2013
On the 17th February Tim Arnold aka the Soho Hobo, played at The Groucho, debuting material from an as-yet unreleased album. The project started out as a book that Arnold was writing, which eventually progressed into a collection of songs - enough to fill a full album - with every track about Soho. Although the album currently has no record deal behind it, it is hoped that it will get a proper release later this year.
I was excited to see this show as I have long been a fan of Soho – I work there and I even have a tattoo dedicated to this small but exciting central London location. I have also wanted to go to The Groucho for as long as I can remember; a place long steeped in mystery; a members only club sitting in the very heart of Soho, and which is famed for being a hangout of celebrities, artists and media moguls. But that's enough about the venue, what about the artist himself?
Tim Arnold has long been a Soho local and is a regular stalwart of the seedy bars and music venues in the area. Indeed, he is the son of one of the original Windmills Girls lineup, Polly Perkins - who also played Dot Cotton's sister in the popular television soap 'EastEnders' no less. It is rumoured that the actress who plays Dot - June Brown - will also have a cameo on the album when it is released, although she does not make an appearance at the show tonight. Another absentee from the album is Gary Kemp, who is a longtime friend of Arnold's.
According to the press release, the music is "a mixture of Vintage London, Ian Dury nods, Tony Newley winks and just a touch of West End Swagger, bubbling from the Britpop roots of this much loved local entertainer" - which it is, and a lot more besides.
Tim is a confident performer and embues a cocky (yet likeable) charm - much as the press release attests - and is quick to banter with the crowd. He creates a quirky and enigmatic onstage persona, at one point carrying out an ad-hoc handstand during a musical segment.
The evening's proceedings are compered by Jud Charlton, who also duets on a track - 'Soho Heroes' - highlighting some of the areas notable (and often notorious) characters over the years. Phil Daniels also makes an appearance on the bill, demonstrating his Britpop credentials once more on the track 'Ain't Made to Measure'; an infectious number and a performance that is boisterous and more rousing than his duet with Blur on 'Parklife' (all of whose members are members of The Groucho incidentally). 'EastEnders' cast members are also something of a theme it seems as the final duet of the night is with Arnold's partner, Jessie Wallace. They sing together on 'Soho Sunset', which, although is no match for Ray Davies 'Waterloo Sunset', is tender and poignant nonetheless.
Intriguingly (although probably not surprising given the location and Soho's reputation), tonight's show also features a nude fan dance/striptease - which is an original enactment from The Windmill in 1964 and is performed by burlesque entertainer, Miss Giddy Heights. But rather than appearing lewd, this interlude comes across as naive - innocent even - and is highly appropriate to tonight's show, especially given Arnold's Soho heritage. It is also worth mentioning that Arnold’s granddad was also regular performer of Soho – although not as a striptease artist. He was a comedian.
The venue is small and very busy with the audience packed in tightly together. Even so, the ambience of this intimate gig is warm-hearted and there is a lively, friendly vibe - due in no small part to Tim Arnold's sparkling onstage charisma. In total Arnold plays 11 songs, the standout tracks being 'Manners on the Manner', 'Ain't Made to Measure' and the sublime 'King of Soho'. Each track stands out in it's own way though, and Arnold has created a unique collection of songs that truly embody the atmosphere and history of Soho. And while there is one central theme that runs through these tracks - it is in no way a concept album - although in essence it could be viewed as such.
Tim Arnold has previously showcased some of his album in 2012 at The Soho Theatre but where better to reveal it in full than at The Groucho - a mere stone's throw from The Windmill Theatre where his mum performed and in the very centre of the area on which the album material is based? I, for one, can not wait for this to be released and hope it is only a matter of time before a savvy London label picks it up. If tonight's performance is anything to go by, it won't be long.
Commenting On: Groucho Club, London, 17/2/2013 - Soho Hobo
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21428 Posted By: toni harrison-kahn (Brighton, East Sussex, UK)
Brilliantly written article, and do so agree, this is a musician worthy of the name songwriter...he is original and unique....pop bordering on the classic....
Tom Fogarty watches the Soho Hobo, which is the moniker of London musician Tim Arnold, play an excellent set material from as-yet unreleased album, every song which is about his native Soho, at the legendary Groucho Club in London
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