The God of Hellfire played a one-off intimate show at the restaurant music venue but without his vast array of costume changes and masks, choosing to simply perform in one persona all evening wearing a plumaged top hat and crow feather adorned jacket as well as his traditional ‘shock rock’ facepaint.

The set was in two parts, which saw The Crazy World of Arthur Brown perform from the band’s eponymous debut album. They opened on the slow blues rock of ‘You Don’t Know’ featuring both guitar and organ solos and the vigorous creep of the ‘Devil’s Grip’; a track added on to the album in later reissues. Joking about his lack of commercial success, frontman Arthur Brown performed ‘Nightmare’, flailing his arms with his banshee screaming synchronising into a crescendo with bubbling keyboards, ending the song on a hilarious question about the cube root of a barnacle.

Brown also included two covers performed more poignantly, ‘Don’t Let me be Misunderstood’ with silvery guitar and trickles of classical piano (played on a piano forte) by Nina Simone and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ ‘I Put a Spell on You’. During the set Brown read from his diary notes from back in the day, entertaining with all manner of musings and footnotes relating to his work which also allowed him to warmly connect to the audience, not usually afforded at regular music venues.

For the second set Brown returned with more tracks off his debut album including its cover of James Brown’s ‘I’ve Got Your Money’ and ‘Fire Poem’; a terrifying spoken word piece that ended in a frenzy of instrumentals leading straight into his number one hit song, ‘Fire’, which he opened in typical fashion with the words, “I am the God of Hellfire and I bring you…Fire!”. He paused with a cover of ‘Serenade’ halfway through the song, also with an organ solo, before finishing the track. Brown dedicated the sweetly sung ballad ‘Voice of Love’ to his wife before the band finished the set doing solo instrumentals.

18/01/24: The Crazy World of Arthur Brown @ Pizza Express Live Holborn.

Photos © Fernanda Bavaresco.

© Ayisha Khan.