Dave Morecroft patrolled the Vortex in a military tunic and a scary clown mask, complete with fluorescent spiky hair, dishing out mince pies baked freshly that afternoon by bassist Arthur O'Hara. Raphael Clarkson brewed discordant trombone textures lathered in effects, duelling Harry Pope's break-neck drumming. The second evening of the WorldService Project's two-night Christmas residency was in full flow.
Performing tracks from For King & Country, released earlier this year, the quintet opened with 'Flick the Beanstalk', in which anthemic choruses were interrupted by twee skipping horn lines. But it wasn't just bluster and circus tricks: metric hocus-pocus came as standard and razor-sharp unison stabs punctuated what would have otherwise seemed like unbridled mayhem. Morecroft was chief architect of this organised chaos, providing chromatic hooks and cluster chords on his keyboard, and breaking into high-tenor melody vocalisations.
Tim Ower was unstoppable on sax – roasting through some astonishing solo work – but the heart of the action came from Pope's incandescent drumming and the bass playing of O'Hara. WSP were playing stadium-sized punk-jazz, barely contained within the walls of the venue. In 'Small Town Girl' from 2013's Fire in a Pet Shop, Morecroft donned a keytar and strode into the centre of the stage; a cross between Herbie Hancock and a tormented jazz incarnation of Slash.
Elsewhere, 'Go Down Ho'ses' had a carnival melody which clung desperately to its cavorting drum and bass accompaniment, and 'Fuming Duck' employed all the punch of heavy metal, but with joyously complex harmony and meter. Appropriately, for a group dressed in various forms of service uniform, the set ended with 'Barmy Army' – an unhinged electro-swing number, which began with marching band snare drum, before lolloping into an incendiary polka.
– Jonathan Carvell