Thursday, 28 August 2008

The Shallow Call/The Debonaire/The Fears @ The Sugarmill, Hanley. August 27th.

Review by Steve Dean

Photo by Simon Bamford

It was nice to see a fair-sized audience in the Sugarmill for first act The Shallow Call to play to. Down from Northwich, this outstanding pop/rock outfit treated the appreciative early crowd to a lively set of well-arranged and commercial compositions played with style and heartfelt energy. Strong songwriting skills are very apparent here and their numbers had enough interesting happenings and catchy hooks to make me want to hear them again. I can't be the only one. In fact, I’ve had a few listens to the CD singer, guitarist and band lyricist Phil O’Driscoll gave to me last night and the two tracks; ‘Where We All Hang Around’ and ‘Favourite Bit on the Side’ are equally inspired. Played with verve and sung with real passion, they are an excellent example of this band’s works. The rest of the group are Richard Rogerson on guitar and Nick Ward-Dutton and David Pickering on bass and drums respectively. An exciting gig from a very promising bunch of musicians.

Leek-based 5-piece The Debonaire were also well-received, and judging by the whistles and shouts, I would guess they had brought a fair-sized company with them. Their music, whilst drawing its influences from a wide range, although none too modern, tended to be a little pedestrian in places and laddish vocalist Dave Dono, whilst singing with a strong sincerity, seemed to be trying too hard sometimes; his voice sounding a tad more relaxed on their myspace recordings. Having said that though, they are musically accomplished and I did like the inherent Hammond sound; putting me in mind of 60s/70s jazz/pop acts along the lines of the Zombies and similar keyboards-based bands of that era. My only real criticism is that they tend to play safe with their compositions and rarely seem to attempt anything out of the ordinary; going by what heard I heard in this performance anyway. Still, they were received very well and obviously have a loyal following. There’s a lot to be said for that.

Coming on to a rapturous reception The Fears gave an adrenaline-pumping razzle of a show as they powered through one foot-stomping number after another. Beginning with 'Victim', they displayed a fervour and good-time enthusiasm that quickly spread throughout the pulsating venue; and a venue filled with rapturous fans appearing to know every word of the lyric, to boot. Playing a longer set than can be normally fitted in, vocalist Oliver Davies introduced a sixth guest member on guitar for just one number while Craig Parr doubled on synth. Normally a roadie, I believe, their 'little helper' as he was referred to, seemed pleased as punch to be up there with them and played his part well; earning a great response. This is my third review of this band and as far as I’m concerned The Fears are well towards the top end of any list of Stoke-on-Trent's many talented groups and it can only be a matter of time before great songs like the gripping 'Impact' are brought to the attention of the whole nation. They certainly deserve to be.

The Shallow Call:
The Debonaire:
The Fears:

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