Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Herzoga/Morning Sparks @ Fat Cat Bar, Hanley. 24th March.

Review by Steve Dean

Photo by Simon Bamford

Featuring promoter Wrongpop's alter-ego Steve Clarke on bass, 3-piece Herzoga are one of those bands that just walk on stage and get stuck right in. Exciting and raucous, Steve and his sidekicks Mark and Matt set a cracking pace right from the first crunching note. Using much discordant feedback in his often chaotic solos, guitarist and lead vocalist Matt nonetheless plays with verve and crackling energy as Steve and lively, crisp drumming from Mark provide a gloriously relentless selection of driving rhythms that rarely let up throughout their entire set. In fact, the band members themselves seem almost restrained in their manner, considering the pounding nature of the music. What appeared to be an attempt at harmonies on one number came out as a series of curious 'oo-ing' sounds, but then again, that may well have been their aim, their music having a certain style all of its own. Veteran rockers ZZ Top came loosely to mind a few times during their act; but not in terms of musical content; more in the band's thumping approach to their material. Well-received by the audience, Steve tells me they are due to record a session for Radio 1 later this month. If they play anything like as well as they did tonight, it will be a belter.

Of all the bands I've seen since I started reviewing, Morning Sparks must be the most original and innovative so far. Opening their set with a powerful and abruptly-timed number guaranteed to grab attention, they then proceeded to entertain with a host of strong, well-arranged ideas, intensely powerful drumming and some curiously quirky lyrics. Loud, energetic and ridiculously tight, they are almost Zappa-ish in their more adventurous moments. Changing tack at a drop of a hat, there is just no room for dull moments in any avenue their musically meandering path takes; light country-style picking unexpectedly morphing into crunchingly heavy riffery without warning. Songwriting is obviously a major skill with this outfit; good ideas being in such abundance I would guess there is plenty more where they come from. The whole band boasts a high standard of musicianship and vocalist Chris Russell’s clear, almost theatrical voice suits them well. Including a bouncy instrumental, their playlist is practically one excellent number after another; the penultimate song being my particular favourite, having one of the best refrains I've heard in eons; although I unfortunately didn't get the title. Get to see them while they’re still playing Stoke pubs and clubs. This is a great band and I can see these lads going places at a rate of knots.

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Operation Error/Liquid Sky @ The Rigger, Newcastle-under-Lyme. 22nd March.

Review by Steve Dean

Photo by Simon Bamford

The Rigger is undoubtedly one of the great heavy rock pubs of the Potteries landscape, so where else better to sit oneself down to watch some great heavy rock, and this evening some great heavy rock is what I saw. Operation Error’s Myspace site describes their particular genre as ‘progressive epic’, and having watched their act and listened to their two EPs, ‘The Voice of Jor-El’ and the more recent ‘Written on the Mirror’, I can understand exactly what they mean. First of all, I want to say that vocalist Steve Ayers has a voice that is touching on world class. I can’t recall hearing a singer of such emotional earnestness since the great Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam. On the band’s recordings, his gripping vocals have just the right hint of powerful melancholia and quiet despair to turn a merely great composition like ‘I am David’ into a near-masterpiece. ‘Epic’ really does seem to be the defining word as far as this band is concerned. With some strong harmonies and neat twin leadwork, practically every song on Operation Error’s two CDs has an almost majestic intensity; the robust drums and rock-solid 5-string bass anchored right on the bottom effortlessly supporting the powerful musical structures towering overhead, so to speak; and I love those grandiose endings – even more so live. The audience loved ‘em too. Once again the talent of Stoke-on-Trent leaves me stunned, and it just keeps on coming.

Six in number and hailing from Manchester, Liquid Sky are an unusually large metal band with an exceptionally powerful female singer. Although small of frame, vocalist Hecate Taglietti has a big, big voice; gutsy and clear as a bell, her soaring vocals slice through the seething metal mayhem behind her like a finely-honed silver blade. Like the previous outfit's vocalist, her melodic input seems to boost the overall sound up to the epic proportions both bands obviously strive to achieve; and achieve it they do. This isn’t to say that the other members lack in any way though, Rick Ogden plays his keyboards with fire and imagination, whilst the inspired and nicely tricky licks exchanged between guitarists Jonathan Craven and Andy Midgley put me in mind of the halcyon twin-lead days of Thin Lizzy. Drummer Anthony Marginson and Den Constable on bass provide a formidable and hard-working rhythm section to boot. ‘Chunky’ would be a good descriptive word as far as these are concerned and I particularly warmed to the dark descending chords in ‘Dreamstate’, a great showcase for Hecate’s voice; but then again, that could be said of all their numbers. I marvelled at the way ‘Beyond the Divide’ developed from but a punchy intro into a vast celebration of a song; whilst their closing number ‘Watch the Ocean’ has the most engagingly choppy riff. Very professional and not a little commercial, I should think Liquid Sky is a band with a considerably rosy future. A great night once again.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

SONS Ltd CD Reviews: This is Seb Clarke/The Novellos/Raphaels/The Title

Reviews by Steve Dean

Radio 6 DJ Steve Lamacq states: “(Stoke-on-Trent has) the most explosive and vibrant music scene in the UK right now” - How right he is; having just claimed 3 UK indie charts singles (no. 7, 9 & 15), SONS ltd release no less than 4 new singles on March 24th.

They are…

This is Seb Clarke/Rock ‘n’ Roll Alamo Part 7

Seb utilises his full musical force on this track, and uses it to great effect. Bringing elements of Van Morrison to mind, Seb’s Dylan-like voice sits well over the lively drums and brass. Commercial and a great dance number, given enough exposure, this could well bring Seb the national recognition that must surely soon be his.

The Novellos/The Lady is not for Turning

With a great sax introduction, this energetic offering gives a fine indication of where the Novellos are presently at. This song chugs along very nicely and I love the short drum break; seeming a little incongruous at first, it fits in very well after a listen or two. Given that their overall feel is rooted in the 80s, they have a definite sound of their own that along with this track should take them a long way up the road to success.

Raphaels/Charming Man

With some neat strumming and a well-placed harmonica solo, this catchy debut single well sums up the Raphaels’ style. Pure pop in essence, the band sound like they are having nothing but fun playing this and the quirky lyrics are but the icing on the cake. A great first effort that should easily bring them the attention they surely deserve.

The Title/Madman

Of the four tracks I received for reviewing, this is personal favourite. Putting me in mind of early sixties bands like the Yardbirds, I at first found the late entry of the drums a little odd, but once I got used to the idea, I can see how it adds to the track. Clever stuff. A great guitar line and a gripping chorus make this a real contender to follow in the footsteps of their last hit in the indie charts, ‘Slippin’ and Slidin’’. More power to their elbow, I say.

Receiving current airplay on the BBC, namely Radios 1 and 6, all four of these SONS releases have a real chance of achieving high places in the indie charts. They are available nationally in HMV stores, including their store in the Potteries Centre, Hanley, from 24th March. Available for pre-order from http://www.hmv.co.uk/ and http://www.recordstore.co.uk/

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Hanging Iscariot/Skin Deep/Everything on Red @ The Sugarmill, Hanley. March 15th

Review by Steve Dean

Photo by Simon Bamford

What used to be plain old ‘heavy metal’ has now split into so many sub-genres and even sub-sub-genres, that I have long lost track of what within the music actually defines its title, basing my reviews on what sounds good to me, rather than how it fares within its field. Hanging Iscariot describe themselves as hardcore/screamo/funk. I can’t say I heard anything last night that I would call ‘funk’ as such, but I did hear some great screaming and hardcore delivered with scintillating attack and sackloads of energy. The consistant high standard of musicianship within the city never ceases to astound me and Hanging Iscariot are certainly no exception. This is an exciting band to watch and they have some great punchy songs, never being less than interesting in concept. I loved the rasping voices alternating with more conventional harmonised vocals in ‘I am Halo’ and ‘If This is Darwinism’ is one of the most enjoyably frantic scream-ups I’ve heard in a long time. Markedly changing pace for a spell, the intro to ‘Room 302’, has an attractive and almost eerie music box feel before the song suddenly goes into brutal overdrive. Engineered by Dug Dugmore, the band has an EP available with all three of these tracks on it. Get a listen; you’ll play it more than once.

Skin Deep had no problem maintaining the standard set by Hanging Iscariot and their repertoire also boasts some fine compositions. Vocalist Dom, with his strong clear voice is an impressive frontman and the whole band plays solid rock with concentration and verve. I was impressed to hear that 6-string bass player Barry Elwood had stood in at a moment’s notice due to their regular bassist having more pressing matters to attend to. He is an excellent player and I for one would never have guessed he’d never played alongside them before. Great stuff. Drummer Joe’s engrossing snareplay warrants a mention as well, as do Phil and James’ passionate guitarwork. They have obviously worked hard on their arrangements and it has undoubtedly paid off. ‘A Taste of Paradise’, with its ‘big production’ feel, is a particularly memorable composition and their final offering, suitably entitled ‘The Closing Scene’ is a number any songwriter would be proud of, and very well-executed, I must add. My only real criticism would be that the endings of their songs are a little untidy and need to be more clearly defined, presently leaving the audience unsure of themselves as far as applause is concerned. Something easily remedied though. Entertaining, passionate and gutsy. A very good act indeed.

Having seen headliners Everything On Red only recently at the Underground and having been left mightily impressed, I was much looking forward to seeing them again tonight and I must say they exceeded even my highly-appointed expectations. Bursting with enthusiastic abandon, they possess a particular ingenuity for arrangement and at times the unfamiliar could never guess where they will head off next. Beginning with the lively ‘Aesop’s Table’, their set seems to be over in no time as idea after idea is pieced meticulously together to produce a playlist that grips the attention from start to finish. ‘Circuses and Anarchy’ is a song that always brings the word ‘theatrical’ to mind, there being so much going on. Containing numerous ‘exits’ and ‘entrances’, the composition runs almost as if it were a short musical playlet. They seem to have a penchant for quirky song titles and their new number ‘Absinthe Makes the Heart Grow Fonder’, is a corker. It’s also a great song; being a tad more ‘riffy’ than their usual style and an interesting addition to their normal playlist. Everything on Red are Alex James on guitar; Tom Brown on keyboards and Sam Brown and James ‘Ratty’ Rathmell on bass and drums respectively. They all share vocals. Watching as they finished their set to thunderous and well-deserved applause, I can only confirm my earlier statement that they are destined for great things; their talent undeniable. They have an EP called ‘Casino Way Out’. It’s all on there. Find out about it.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Interview: John 'Dug' Dugmore of Burnt and Tommo Boulton of Fleshhold (for 8 days anyway!). 12th March

Interview by Steve Dean

Preparing to record their new CD and just back from a successful European tour, John 'Dug' Dugmore of metal core band Burnt and his friend Tommo Boulton were in a philosophical mood when we stopped by for a chat recently. Burnt and Fleshhold being booked for an eight-day tour, taking in Belgium, Holland and Germany, vocalist Tommo, his brother being amongst Burnt's regular line-up, was given only five days notice before temporarily joining Fleshhold for the duration of the outing - the band's regular singer unfortunately having to miss out due to taking an important exam. Organised by Emilio of the enigmatically-named Holland-based agency 'Musketeer of Death', they were joined on the five-gig tour by Dutch band Retaliation. This is Burnt's second such tour, the first taking place back in 2004 alongside Razorwire and Long Time Dead, the latter band's more traditional style currying the best favour back then, and Dug and Tommo were happy to report a better response this time around. Not that they went down badly at any time; it's just that music-wise the Europeans are roundabout five years or so behind the UK and Dug and Tommos' music can be a little too 'modern' for our friends across the channel. Still, they are catching on fast and the bands were very pleased to report an especially enthusiastic reception at the packed-out Cave venue in Amsterdam. The Europeans are an understanding people and free beer and accommodation was provided at every booking played; which is just as well, considering the considerable distances between bookings. On being asked if they had advice for others considering such a tour, both agreed that a tour bus with a toilet is essential, also issuing a warning not to drink the lethal continental liqueur 'Goldstrike'. Why? Apparently it contains minute traces of gold leaf that lacerate the gut and encourage swifter alcohol entry into the bloodstream. Hmm.. Enough said.

Burnt will be previewing their new CD at the Sugarmill on May 3rd. If their last one, 'Rephrase the Lie', is anything to go by, it will be an event to remember.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

The Blue Collars/The Title/The Rebounds/The Cazals @ The Sugarmill, Hanley. 9th March

Review and photo by Chloe West

On a night of cold and blustery weather, it seems that many took refuge in The Sugarmill, which saw a fine turnout right from the first note played.

Having recently seen them perform at the Gardeners Retreat, opening band The Blue Collars were true to form and did not disappoint. Personal favourite ‘The Dance One’ certainly got the crowd started, or in singer Rob’s words, ‘put a cat among the pigeons’. Their final song introduced a new number, ‘Possibilities’, which received a hearty response from their eager fans. For their first appearance at the Mill, The Collars definitely made an impression and I’m sure we shall see them gracing its stage more often in future.

The Title followed with a set of high tempo tunes, entwined with jangling guitar riffs, accompanied by lyrics belted out by vocalist Beef. Signed to local record label SONS Ltd, listening to the Title is like being briefly escorted back to the Sixties MOD scene, with comparisons to the Kinks or even the Who. Despite this older style, they did not cease to appeal to the audience, and it look as though new single ‘Madman’ could make an impression on the indie charts, as did its predecessor, ‘Slippin’ and Slidin’’.

Next we are greeted by The Rebounds, and to try to describe their enthusiasm will always be a difficult task. Lead singer Cappy’s confidence shone through, sporting his trademark fringe and manly swagger, as he constantly danced to the beats of his band. He even managed to look graceful when falling flat on the floor after a jump went wrong. Describing themselves as ‘iconic funk makers’ they pound energy into every number, most notably ‘Opportunity’ and finisher ‘Dealers dealer’, which cement the fact that there are big things on the horizon for The Rebounds.

Final act, the London based Cazals, surely had a high standard to maintain following some of Stoke’s finest. They produce rock and roll laced with lively electro synth, and the remixes showcased on their Myspace site demonstrate a delightful fusion of the two genres. Recent release, ‘Life Is Boring’, is lyrically poignant to those ‘who cant stand getting up in the morning’, which I am assured is not just myself! That along with their cover of Spandau Ballet’s ‘To Cut A Long Story Short’, added a pleasant element of pop to the evening.

Overall, tonight was a clear example of how local talent easily has the potential to match, if not better, bands on a national scale.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Music Fair, Conference Centre, Crewe, Cheshire. March 9th.

Article by Simon Bamford

Buy a guitar on the Sabbath? Well, yes if you visited the South Cheshire Fairs Ltd music fair; held on Sunday 9 March at the MMU Cheshire conference centre in Crewe. The well-attended event had plenty to offer to the average guitar freak. There was also some great memorabilia and vintage vinyl on display. I found myself drooling over classic axes from Gibson, Taylor, Guild and Fender, to mention just some of many. There was also a great range of accessories to choose from; felt picks, slides and even cryogenically treated strings! More rock 'n' roll than Countryfile!

The show was the first in a series of events organised by Crewe musician Sid Wagstaff. There are three more music fairs planned for July, October and November plus a Guitar Mania show planned for the summer. Watch this space for details or check out:


Sid Wagstaff 01270 215790

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Wrongpop 1st Birthday Party featuring Stringfellow Hawk/Mauskramp/The Notorious Hi-Fi Killers/Truckdriver Jnr @ The Glebe, Stoke. 7th March.

Review by Steve Dean

Photo by Simon Bamford

I think I can honestly say one man band Stringfellow Hawk is quite unlike any act I’ve ever seen before. Beginning his set with a lively ditty about Macauley Culkin, he sings most of his songs with just the barest trace of a snigger. Cleverly cynical and full of humorous crudity, he also throws in a colourful variety of cover numbers with lyrics apparently rewritten by the man himself. A confident performer, he is also an impressive guitarist, turning to a banjo on some numbers, and displayed some very tasty right-hand picking throughout his set. His banjo version of ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’ was a delight, as was his reworked guitar-driven version of Kraftwerk’s ‘The Model’. He obviously likes a laugh, but I was drawn to a particularly engaging song he sung called, I believe, ‘True Love Will Find You in the End’; his composition or otherwise, I don’t know, but his performance of it couldn’t be faulted.

Mauskramp, basically John Matley on keyboards and bass with Richard Underwood on guitar and vocals, offer an onslaught of sound, that, although electronically pounding and relentless throughout their set, never gets monotonous or boring even for a second. Apart from looking like Iggy Pop, Richard boasts a remarkably similar voice, particularly on ‘Vitamin Deficiency’, a great salvo of a number that nutshells their style most satisfactorily. In fact, all their lengthy compositions are structurally sound enough to maintain rapt audience attention throughout; John Matley’s imaginative keyboard programming bringing consistent new dimensions as his sidekick gets more and more hyper and wild-eyed as they thunder on. I loved the quirky introduction to ‘Active Speaker’ and it is obvious that a great deal of thought has gone into their overall sound. Raucous and very loud, they describe themselves as ‘bad-tempered rock ‘n’ roll disco’. About right.

Up from London, 3-piece The Notorious Hi-Fi Killers have a dirty raw sound that kept bringing Audioslave to mind, except without the powerful voice. However, although guitarist and singer Jonathan Richard’s vocals could by no means be described as such, they do have a haunting quality that is more apparent on their recordings than live, it has to be said. As a guitarist, he is never less than interesting and a strong Hendrix influence is very evident in his liberal use of effects, echo unit especially. Drummer Rhys Lewellyn plays with great energy and imagination while bassist Tony Mountford, wielding a vintage Hofner, supplys a formidable anchor; together holding the middle-heavy to very heavy refrains rock solid while Richards unleashes his semi-psychedelic lead to roam wherever. They have some fine songs in their set and I took a particular liking to ‘Into the Light’, which saw some drastic downtuning for a very effective intro. This is a very capable band; it’ll be good to see them in Stoke again sometime.

On their Myspace site Truckdriver Jnr. describe themselves as ‘riffs and riffs and shouts and quiet bits and screams and riffs and more riffs’ – which descibes the bare bones of it very well, but in reality, there is a lot more to it than just that. Drummer John Hulme plays with astounding accuracy, while guitarists Steve Arnold and Wes Hall, along with George Myers on bass, weave in and out of his solid beats with practised panache. They are so tight they could hold water, so to speak, possessing a certain group discipline that ensures the confident twists and turns which are something of a trademark as far as this band’s overall sound is concerned. Heavy, but musically nimble, they have an almost masterly feel for light and shade; bringing the unexpected in from nowhere in an instant. Taking lead vocals, Wes Hall has one of those ‘demonic’ rasping voices so beloved of followers of this particular genre and very good at it he undoubtedly is; putting across some real conviction. However, when hearing songs of this nature, I sometimes can’t help wondering how they would sound sung in a more conventional fashion; but then again, perhaps I’m missing a point somewhere. All-in-all, they displayed some fine musicianship and as a headline band, they did not disappoint.

Wrongpop, without whom this night would not have happened, is the brainchild of Steve Clarke and I shall quote his own words:

“[Wrongpop is] a blatant unorganised attempt at bringing down the modern mores of today's music. A shit-hot monthly night at the Glebe. Wrongpop doesn't care about trends and cliques; gigs are put on once a month for the love of music and friends and nothing else. Wrongpop makes no profit whatsoever; all money made after paying for the night goes straight to the bands. Wrongpop won't put a goody bag in your hand on the door and pat you on the head, or accept money for sponsorship - the people who come to the gigs pay for the night, and a damn fine night they have too! £3/£4 for 3/4 bands, once a month. Wrongpop makes mothers cry tears of joy and fathers clench their fists with pride.”

I couldn’t put it better myself. Well done for a magnificent effort.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Impact/The Warriors/The Business @ The Glebe, Stoke. March 1st.

Review by Steve Dean

Photo by Simon Bamford

I have to admit that punk rock is a genre that has generally passed me by, although I am a fan of the Sex Pistols, The Damned and the more well-known punk bands, this is the first time I have ever attended a gig given over entirely to punk rock, or rather ‘oi’ music, as someone corrected me on earlier in the evening. The Glebe is a great old-time scruffy rock pub and an ideal venue for such an occasion. Up until that evening, I had little idea that so many punks and skinheads of all ages still existed; although there were far more skinheads than punks in attendance, but this may be due to the fact that middle-aged thatchs rarely lend themselves to such elaborate hairstyles, although that doesn’t mean to say they weren’t there. Some nifty mohicans were on younger heads and although they look very showy, they seem very high maintenance to me and many looked in need of prompt attention after a solid evening’s bounding around.

Impact were the first band on and appeared to be doing very well audience appreciation-wise until the end of the third or fourth song, when the applause abruptly dropped to a level more akin to cricket matches than a punk rock gig and stayed that way until Impact finally left the stage. Why? I haven’t a clue. To my ears, Impact’s later tunes thundered just as riotously along as the ones prior to this sudden change in reception. In a possible attempt to revive their previous welcome, Impact altered course slightly and gave us a blast of Motorhead’s classic ‘Ace of Spades’, which wasn’t a bad cover at all, but the clapping still would not rise above that awarded to a good shot at a conker match. Excuse the pun, but despite the band’s obvious commitment and energy, it appeared that little impact was made.

I don’t know what it is that makes some skinheads more menacing-looking than others, but if such a thing could be measured on a scale of 1 to 10, I’d say Impact were about mark 2 and the next band, The Warriors, mark 8. Their cockney vocalist, a jovial Russ Abbot lookalike, but minus the hair, having bombarded the audience with their opening number and thence a song apparently called ‘Noisy Bollocks’, showed us his belly on which the band’s name was elaborately tattooed and enquired if there were any fat people in the audience. I don’t know if any hands went up, but before we knew it, another musical pelting was under way in the form of a ditty called ‘The Bhudda of the Backstreets’. Punk rock(or ‘oi’ music)-wise, this band knows its stuff and the drummer’s relentless rhythm on ‘Political Crossfire’ really made the song. Hurtling to a finish with the metal-ish ‘The Last Result’, The Warriors hung about as if expecting to be asked for an encore, which they weren’t. I guess this particular audience just ain’t no good at applause.

Having said that though, there was a definite air of expection prior to the headliner’s entrance. The playing of Ken Dodd’s ‘Happiness’ as they made their way to the stage only added to the growing anticipation. Up from South-East London, and having Burslem lad Tosh playing guitar for them on stage right, The Business have a well-established following amongst enthusiasts of beer-flinging and generally pretending to kick each others’ heads in without actually doing it - although a battery of gargantuan bouncers stood between the crowd and the band, presumably in case the simulated punch-up got a bit real and needed sorting. Having just seen one lookalike fronting one band, I did a double take when what appeared to be one of the Chuckle Brothers sans moustache standing on the stage to front the next. Actually vocalist Micky Fitz, he went on to say something about the Chuckle Brothers later on in the set, but having been long buffeted to the back, I didn’t catch what he was actually saying about them, although he appeared to be holding up a poster of some sort. Looking around mark 7 on the menace meter, The Business got down to work, and it must be said that they do punk rock (or ‘oi’ music) very, very well. By the third song the audience at the front consisted solely of leaping, pushing, shoving, trampling, air-punching individuals; falling over, getting up, falling over, throwing beer, grinning maniacally and generally looking like they were having a whale of a time stopping just a whisker short of partaking in a savage brawl. Spotting a battered-looking grey-haired chap being thrown hither and thither in the manic melee, I couldn’t help but wonder if he had actually joined in willingly or had somehow found himself caught up on his way to the toilet. The audience in general seemed well familiar with The Business’s playlist and their version of Status Quo’s ‘Mean Girl’ and a catchy song called ‘Harry Main’ (I think), went down especially well. Interesting to note that, good as they were, The Business didn’t get asked for an encore either. Still, they can’t complain about the response. An interesting night, and definitely an experience, for sure.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Yoz/Hips Like Cinderella/The Fears @ The Fat Cat Bar, Hanley. 29th. Feb.

Review by Steve Dean

Photo by Simon Bamford

As a venue, Hanley’s Fat Cats bar offers a great atmosphere and it was good to see a fair crowd in for the evening’s entertainment. Yoz and his acoustic guitar taking the stage first, he took us through a selection of his self-penned songs; kicking off with the poignant ‘Son of a Mother’, through ‘I don’t mind’, ‘Fantasmagoria’ and ‘So What?’; finally concluding his spot with ‘Atlantic Waves’; a song about the pain of saying goodbye. He sings with sincere conviction and his compositions are imaginative, thoughtful and the lyrics have just a touch of the world-weary about them; in some ways bringing an early Van Morrison to mind. They are not without a little humour here and there either and Yoz’s set made for an excellent half-hour’s entertainment. I look forward to catching him again.

Hailing from Stafford, Hips Like Cinderella sound like an amalgamation of every top 80s pop act I can think of; although Ad Price’s vocals bring to mind Brian Molko of Placebo at times. The Smiths and Spandau Ballet influences were very prominent in the mix, but this isn’t to say that’s a bad thing. They have some excellent songs and the well thought out arrangements are spot-on. Price sings with much passion and the rest of the band - drummer Andy Todd, bassist Larry Moore and Paul Walker and Graham Salt on guitars - are accomplished musicians, although they don’t appear to enjoy themselves very much; unsmiling, they spend a great deal of time glumly looking at the floor. Perhaps it’s part of a cultivated ‘moody image’. If it is, I tentatively suggest it would be a good idea to drop it. On the whole though, they put on a very good show.

The Fears are rooted firmly in the 80s retro slot as well; but there the comparison ends. Fiercely dynamic, The Fears are excitement defined. Using tonal light and shade to shrewd effect, their powerful songs build into great pounding creations that stir the blood and rouse the soul. Appearing somewhat bemused at their rapturous reception, singer Oliver Davies’ impassioned and sometimes plaintive vocals swooped and soared as the band whipped up a musical storm. Bassist Andrew Redfern keeps things simple, but along with lively drummer Daniel Finn, they supply an upliftingly vital heartbeat on which the other members flesh out their scintillating soundscapes, and they do not fail or dip for a second. Obviously enjoying themselves, guitarists Alex Coleman on lead and Craig Parr on rhythm and synth, spread their solos and refrains across the musical surface like icing over a very rich cake. Although it has to be said that numerous influences are present, and at times The Fears bring to mind U2 at their very best; I can also report enough individuality to take this band a very long way indeed. A great show. Marvellous.