Review by Steve Dean
Photo by Simon Bamford
Good to see plenty of people at popular venue the Sugarmill this evening; Hanley on Monday student nights seems to have more people around than a Saturday afternoon.
First on the bill were Alsager band We Fly Spitfires. Beginning their set with all three of them presumably impersonating the sound of a Spitfire engine, they then launched into a spirited and appropriately funky version of Jamiroquai’s ‘Runaway’. Unfortunately, lead vocals/guitar Jonny Williams snapped a string during the number, inspiring the energetic drummer to keep up a steady and rhythmic solo in order to fill in while the guitarist endeavoured to tune up a spare instrument borrowed from The Lies. Eventually giving up on it and returning to his now 5-string Marauder, he managed to play around the missing G string with admirable determination. The rest of the set comprising of their own compositions, generally being catchy with a good strong beat, their songs are a mixture of rock and choppy funk with a dash of reggae thrown in in their penultimate number, the quirkily-titled ‘Potato Bristow’, which also included a nicely misleading false ending. Finishing up with the pounding ‘Ashtray ashtray’, which took the drummer to ever more frantic new heights they went off to massive applause; while most of the audience appeared to go off somewhere other than the Sugarmill; the place seeming almost empty a few minutes later. I can only conclude that We Fly Spitfires have a seriously well-stocked fan club.
Consequently, there was not such a big crowd for the next band, Rosalita; although for this very professional pop/rock outfit, there should have been a massive one; should there be any justice. Showmen to a man, they certainly made the now sparse audience sit up and take notice and I’m pleased to say that the crowd had greatly increased by the time they had finished. Leading in the set, the keyboard player used his instrument to great effect throughout and there wasn’t a dud song in the bouncy, lively playlist; although highlights were the band performing an entertainingly odd hopping dance during ‘Manga Girl’, with its lovely twisting riff and ‘If you can’t Dance’, with an interesting tinkling one; also a great sing-along number, to boot. All the songs have a commercial flavour and with their high standard of musicianship they should do very well indeed. The 5-piece also pay attention to the endings of their compositions as well, something that is often overlooked by many bands. Hailing from Ipswich and currently on tour, Rosalita were extremely tight after weeks on the road and exhibiting formidable stage presence, they put on a show to remember. A gem of a band.
Since I last reviewed headliners The Lies a little while back they have gained a keyboard player and his added embellishments to their already full-bodied songs added a nice bit of icing to an already flavoursome cake. The Lies have a staunch following and the loud reception that greeted them in the now-refilled Sugarmill as they filed onstage heralded a great 10 song set that had the moshers pushing and shoving at the front, while more conventional dancers kept to the sides and back. Kicking in with ‘White Lie’, they set set the scene for a powerful and well-sung playlist that showcased the fine songwriting skills of this band very nicely. My particular favourite being ‘Four of the Queens’. To me it has one of the best choruses I’ve heard in many a moon. Great lyrics as well. Another new aspect to the band’s act was the introducing of an alto sax played in the last number by guitarist Richie Turvey. The effect was blunted a little by his failure to turn down his guitar’s volume before he changed instruments; his Les Paul shrieking its feedbacking head off until lead singer Donny Wrench damped the strings by standing on the neck. Still, it was just a minor hiccup in an otherwise fine performance by one of Stoke’s most popular bands. With a bit of luck, they may well see themselves playing to a far wider audience in the not-too-distant future.