Review by Danny Hill
Photos by Darren Washington
Imagine if The Cure had instilled gravelly-voiced singer Liam Gallagher as their lead singer as opposed to the androgynous Robert Smith, then the mental picture you’re picturing should sound something like new Stoke band Heart of the Sun. The lads - all teenagers - are James on vocals and guitar, Dave on lead guitar duties with Arryon on bass and Jake on the drums. Since forming only a month ago, the band have already captured the attention of fellow Stokesounder Charlotte Lunt, who immediately insisted on promoting the band and inviting myself and super-snapper Darren along to witness what would only be the band’s second gig. Charlotte has grand designs for the group, with gigs scheduled all over the place in the coming months, and after listening to Heart of the Sun for a little while, it’s not hard to understand why.
The Plume of Feathers is a pub that’s just had its facelift in terms of interior design, but as I’d recommend it to anyone that fancies a nice quiet pint or glass of wine, I wouldn’t suggest it as a live music venue in a similar vein to other pubs that cater for live music, like Oggys or the Jug, for example... Acoustic nights in front of friends, yes, but as for live bands… The ambience just seems somewhat incongruous. Heart of the Sun, however, are all Barlaston lads, and the choice to pick a venue close to home for some much-needed performing experience seemed a sensible one.
So, as for my earlier comparisons to The Cure - a compliment to the lads, I’m sure - the association doesn’t just end with the boys’ already finely-honed musical harmony, but aesthetically as well. Lyricist and vocalist James, a wild mane of blonde hair, drenched in black clothes and resplendent in eyeliner, looks every inch the rock-star-in-waiting. Bass guitarist Arryon is the wisecracking sidekick between songs, raising eyebrows and huffing and puffing theatrically at the madness of it all. Musically, the drummer and the bassist laid some pretty solid foundations for some neat solo-guitar work from Dave, which reminded me ever-so-slightly of The Edge on U2‘s early stuff.
Heart of the Sun combined their own material with covers throughout their two sets: Movie Scene is the song that embodies their musical line of attack, with some tight riffery and inspiring solo work and James’ soaring vocals. Into the Blue is another notable tune, with some impressive slide work. There are times during their performance that the lads “rock out” and carry on instrumentally for a good few minutes. It was moments like that on Friday night that reminded me of erstwhile local band CODA. The lads executed this instrumental philosophy with their song Embrace This Rock ‘n’ Roll, perhaps my favourite of the evening. Stop and Start - on its delivery - earned its place amongst among their best of the evening. There were far too many influences coming over subliminally to put my finger on one particular genre; with elements of bluegrass, folk and space rock and just “good ol’ fashioned rock ’n’ roll,” I think it’s fair to say Heart of the Sun have cultivated a sound that’s distinctively their own.
Between the two sets local musician Mark Cocker displayed some excellent compositions on his acoustic guitar. Truly remarkable. His covers of Crowded House’s Don’t Dream It’s Over and the legendary Nights in White Satin from The Moody Blues were practically flawless. James Taylor’s Fire and Rain earned great cheers. He even managed to throw in one of his own arrangements too - a political message regarding Hong Kong going back to China; the song was simply entitled Red Sun. Of all the copious amounts of decent singer/acoustic-guitarists that appear up and down the pub circuit with the resurgence of acoustic nights over the past few years, Mark was certainly one of the better ones I’ve held witness to.
Heart of the Sun returned to their second set with an abundance of covers, and a broken guitar. It was because of this the lads were unable to perform most of the material they had wanted. James seized the opportunity to apologise at every opportunity, but the crowd were than entertained nonetheless, dancing and spinning across the pub’s floor to the tunes. The lads version of The Kings Of Leon’s Be Somebody was impressive, as well as The Coral’s Thinkin’ Of You. Stand By Me - more Lennon-esque than Ben E King- earned great applause. On the strength of their tunes and intrinsic entertaining style it shouldn’t take these lads too long to build up a large following. Great stuff.
Heart of the Sun