Sunday, 13 July 2008

Ambience/The Control/Operation Error/Bad Sandwich @ The Underground, Hanley. July 11th.

Review by Steve Dean

Photos by Giglou

Some time since I’ve visited the Underground and it was great to see a fair-sized crowd in. With a line-up this strong, it promised to be a cracking night…

Having intended to review Ambience for a little while now, it is a little unfortunate that I should catch them on the night of the last-ever performance, the band having decided to split up.

The band having just begun their set, I picked up on the strong party atmosphere present amongst those leaping around at the front the moment I arrived. With the knowledge that this was their last gig together, the band were obviously determined to give a show to remember.

Specialising in raunchy powerful rock, the four band members, Jheryl Hall on drums, bassist James Darlington and Roy Thatcher and Wayne Bayley on guitar and vocals respectively, played a powerful set full of raunchy self-penned songs that bore fine testimony to the hard work they had put in since their conception in 2006. Although they put me in mind of Blur in places, especially in ‘Head Candy’, Wayne’s distinctive voice gave them pretty much a sound of their own. Good punchy riffs and a gutsy delivery are a hallmark of this band and it’s really quite a shame they’re calling it a day. Joined onstage by friends assisting with the vocals towards the end of their set, the band closed their career with an impressive track called ‘Should I Stare’ which featured some classy drumming from Jheryl. As a final gig, I would say it was a great success. Whatever they individually decide to do next, I wish them the very best of good fortune.

This is the fourth time I have seen The Control in action and they just get better and better all the time. Making their entrances one by one as Rich Bratt coaxed some cool Hendrixy ambience from his stratocaster, the band let rip and let up not for one second until they left the stage half an hour later. Taking the audience through a playlist chockful of strong material, the resounding applause after each number bore irrefutable testimony to this band’s inherent ability to entertain. Their collective talent spread pretty evenly across the board, drummer Greg Butler and lively bassist John Burgess lay solid foundation while singer Joe Brennan Hulme and Guitarist Rich, who is destined to become one of the greats, fanfare their melodies and tricky licks in a seemingly endless variation of fresh ideas and heartfelt expression. These are one of the most exciting bands I’ve seen in years. One can only guess what heights they will eventually reach.

Describing themselves as ‘progressive epic’ on their myspace profile, Operation Error have a big, big sound. Opening their set with what I believe to be ‘The Prayer of an Ancestor’ from their new CD of the same title, The band showed a little more restraint after the manic antics of the previous act and concentrated on delivering the maximum in intense and harmonious heavy rock. This memorable new offering has a corking melody line and made an ideal introduction to a set full of such numbers; solid chunky riffs being a speciality of this band. Following on with the anthemic ‘I am David’, vocalist Steve Ayers, in good strong voice as usual, held the mic out to the crowd as they enthusiastically sung along to the gripping chorus of this uniquely powerful song. I have a liking for the harmonies used liberally throughout the set and loved the bulldozer riff in the Sabbath-ish ‘A Vision Corrupted’, another track from the new CD and their last song of the night. It seems to me that Operation Error have ‘progessive epic’ pretty much sewn up.

Up from the South Coast, Brighton-based Bad Sandwich looked very pleased to be here and performed their songs accordingly. There is an exuberant sense of fun about this band and their lively playlist stayed at up-tempo practically throughout their energetic and blithely cheerful set. The Chilli Peppers well at the head of any list of influences here, Laurie Harriot (Daddy Cool)’s bass technique is superb, whilst Pete Newing (Brother Funk)’s crisp guitar complements him perfectly. Drummer Matt Lenihan (Many Hands) keeps the beat as danceable as possible at all times, while singer, rhythm guitarist and frontman Tommie Millington (Quirky Brown) continually exudes a non-stop vibrant energy that suggests that were it not for the need to sing in front of a static microphone occasionally, he would not stand still at all.

Changing places at one point, Quirky Brown took over admirably on bass while Daddy Cool put on some goggles(?) and gave us a few rapping numbers, including one about the frustration of hearing “time gentlemen please”. Their musicianship is impressive and the music itself is executed with deft precision, despite the loose feel of their stage act. Taking out a kazoo for the last frantically upbeat number, local lad Tommie lead the band in a manic tribute to James Brown-type supercharged funk.

A great act to round off an excellent night.

1 comment:

Quirky Bloke said...

superb and accurate review of last friday at the underground - 11/07/08.
how refreshing to read a music review that is professional in its composition and manages to avoid the childishness that pervades so much music journalism right now.
ambience and operation error were really good, the control were excellent and bad sandwich were just amazing - what a show!