The pick of the action from the live arena in 2006, 2007.and 2008. See us darn the front!


Best fron darn the front in 2008!

From The Jam

Venue: Sheffield Carling Academy. This place is one of the best venues around and now it's been open a while it's started to get that lived in feeling, like it's getting a bit of history. In fact you can now stick to the carpets and to be honest that's one of the marks of a good venue to us! The lights and sound are bang on too. Ten minutes before From The Jam hit the stage its looks pretty sparse but as soon as they are on it appears most have been round the bars and there's plenty of faces to greet the lads. The crowd is a great mix too, old skool jam troopers from the day through to the wannabe ace faces of today, with their cool clothes and Barnet's to match! Support: Never saw them but it was a great idea by the band to do a competition to find the support slots for this tour, like it. The Band: Now this is the billion dollar question, is it really The Jam. Well no and yes, obviously it's not like seeing the threesome back in their prime and know doubt seeing Weller reunited with Foxton and Buckler would be something else. But lets be brutal here that ain't gonna happen so what's on the table with From The Jam, well this is where the 'yes' comes in cause if you listen to The Jam it isn't all about Weller's lyrics and vox. A big part of the power of The Jam was from the backbone that Bruce and Rick provided. So they've added a couple of new guys who it has to be said are tidy musicians in their own right. Russell Hastings who provides the vocals is pretty damn good, he sounds enough like Weller to make the songs sound right but doesn't try to rip him off or act like his just stepped out of a tribute band, phew that's a relief! Anyway, onto the music, this is the beauty of From The Jam, as you'd expect they blast out some solid gold from The Jam's extensive back catalogue. They also pop in the occasional newie but mainly they stick to what the public wants, plenty of hits but also less obvious stuff too which is well received by the old skool brigade. Also as expected they do play a couple of tracks that Foxton himself wrote for The Jam, 'Smithers-Jones' and especially 'News of the world' go down a treat and get a great crowd reaction. There's plenty of 'Bruce' chants throughout the evening in fact. They do a good, long honest set too so there's plenty of value for money. Plus there's loads of 'thanks' & 'cheers' from the stage back to the crowd, the band seem as grateful for the fans as the fans are of the chance to hear the old tunes kicked out in some considerable style. Verdict: It's good, real good in fact. There seems to be no pressure on Foxton and co so they can really enjoy themselves which they do, that translates into a quality performance and leads to plenty of singing along and a bit of hardcore dancing down the front! They finish the encore and evening off as you'd expect with a storming 'Going Underground' but you have to rewind a bit to find the highlights. The Foxton penned 'News of the world' is a corker (and underrated in our opinion) and 'That's Entertainment' has the Academy singing along. But 'Town called Malice' is the crowning glory of the performance, it's a monster tune but really highlights how Foxton's basslines and Buckler's drums shaped the sound of The Jam. It also illustrates why so many have turned up on a freezing December Monday evening and just why The Jam are still viewed as one of this nations best ever bands some 30 years after the event. So back to the billion dollar question, the answer is still yes and no but From The Jam are still well worth the ticket price and then some!

Shadders scorelines

Atmosphere - 7

Ability - 9

Effort - 9

From The Jam value for money - 8


Elbow

Venue: Leeds Academy. Years ago this was a cracking venue under the name Town and Country Club but then it was gobbled up and turned into some kind of horrid urban super club. Called Creation it was all show and no substance populated by wannabe gansters postering to insipid r n b. Fortunately as part of the Academy group's match towards live music domination they snapped up the venue and restored to its former glories. With a really high ceiling the sound is top notch and it looks the part inside and out. Support: She's called Jesca Hoop, is all on her own with just a guitar for company and has no shoes on! Actually she looks a bit like Alanis Morrisette and actually sounds a bit similar too. It's a bit of a tall order to win this packed crowd out but the appearance of Guy kinda perks things up a bit. Overall pleasant but without a full band sounds a little too delicate for this big stage.  The Band: What does a band that has just won the mercury award sound like, just ask Guy and co! Can't see the mercury going to this lot's level heads and tonight to a big sold out crowd it's back to the bread and butter live work. The treat the crowd (which includes plenty of new converts) to plenty of the 'Seldom seen kid' and have the cube logo as their huge backdrop just as a reminder! 'One day like this' is Elbow at the most beautiful and they have the mini orchestra on stage with them so it gets the full treatment, simply georgeous and seems like it goes on for ever (wish it went on longer!). As you'd expect 'Grounds for divorce' sounds blinding live, bigger and a damn sight brasher. There's a few to keep the old hands happy too, 'Newborn' still sounds as good as ever and any song which contains the line 'I'll be the corpse in your bathtub' has to be on the set list! We are also treated to 'Leaders of the free world' whose lyrics still ring so very true and 'Forget myself' which is a blinder and gets a few singing along nicely. Aware from the music the band seem slightly less forthcoming, bit less banter than previous tours but still get a neat group singalong and 'gang' thanks at the end.  Verdict: Still as great as ever and it's gonna be really, really difficult to top 'One day like this' but then again we've said that after their first two albums and they continue to get better and better. The mercury will no doubt open new doors and gain them new friends but performances like this mean they'll keep plenty of them.

Shadders scorelines

Atmosphere - 7

Ability - 10

Effort - 8

Elbow value for money - 8


Oasis

Venue: Sheffield Arena. You're hardly gonna see Oasis down the Leadmill these days are you! This is one of the original mega stadia to copy those on the other side of the pond. It's a complete sell out as you'd expect, the atmosphere ain't too bad, apart from a few altercations mainly over split drinks (Oasis fans do seem to like a drink or two) but generally the place looks well up for it. Fair play the place as it has to be said that the sound seems pretty nailed on too so here we go…. The Band: Buoyed by the return of the injured Noel back into action and yet another number one album in the bag the boys seem to be in really good spirits. Let's face it Oasis are one of, if not the big live draw in the UK so everytime they take to a stage the expectations are always high and as if not to disappoint they blow straight through 'Rock n roll star', that's the way to do it! The stakes are keep nice and high as not long after they drop the excellent new single 'The Shock of the lightening', those lucky enough to have standing tickets are already in overdrive and this is a stunning tour de force of Oasis at their best. True to form the gig follows the Oasis standard formula; some new stuff, a couple of Noel 'solo spots' (where the limelight transfers between brothers) and obviously a boat load of hits. Bizarrely it's one of the Liam less interludes that gets the best reception, with an armoury full of treats like 'The importance of being idle', 'The Masterplan' plus newie 'Falling down' but it's that old fav 'Don't look back in anger' that gets the whole arena on it's feet. We all know that 'The Masterplan' is sublime but the 'Importance of being idle' is some tune whilst 'Falling down' has a bit of a feel of 'Setting son' about it (without being dance!). 'Don't look back in Anger' is really, really stripped down and sounds absolutely stunning, it's the hairs standing up on the back of the neck stuff, hands aloft all around the arena and the applause is deafening. Anyway not to be outdone back to the main frontman in town, Liam. When he is on stage they move up that extra level; his arrogance, attitude and downright coolness just prove it was destiny to be the quintisensual frontman of his generation. They pull out the rabbits out of the hat too; 'Songbird' is simple yet effective, 'Slide away' a pleasant surprise and 'Wonderwall' is on the money as you'd expect. So for an encore it's the usual duo of 'Champagne Supernova' and 'I am the Walrus' well you'd be gutted by anything else. Verdict: So do Oasis still live up to the biggest live draw then? Hell yeah. Anyone who has this arsenal of songs would have to do something really wrong to muck it up and they barely put a foot wrong. Liam and Noel manage to give some attitude too, in a comedy manner like. Liam listens to the normal 'Yorkshire' chants, wanders up to the mic and utters 'So you've got yourselves a music scene then!' and then backs away to ready himself for his next sonic assault. Whereas Noel dedicates one of his solo spots to some blues in the house, that gets a first round of jeers, Noel laughs this off by saying it's nothing to do with the Wednesday's (one of the local Sheffield football teams) which is greeted by more jeers to which his response is to 'Don't worry we'll own you all in a couple of years anyway' which refers to Manchester City new found Arab financial clout). As ever since last time Oasis were on the touring circuit the rotating band member door policy has been in effect this time we welcome a new drummer. Other than that though Gem and Andy Bell have made their spaces on the tour bus really their own, just getting on with the job in hand and now helping out on the writing front too. Liam and Noel use this to truly run the show and what a show, from start to finish they don't just live up to the billing their tear it down and rewrite it. Best live band in Britain, you don't shift tickets like Oasis still do by accident, best live band in Britain you'd better believe it.

Shadders scorelines

Atmosphere -8

Ability - 10

Effort - 8

Oasis value for money - 9 (it ain't cheap but there's no complaints!).


The Automatic

Venue: Sheffield Carling Academy 2. First time into the smaller sister venue to the welcome Academy addition to the Sheffield live scene. The C2 is tight little place, a bit bland but the low ceiling makes it feel nice and intimate plus the fact the feet already stick to the carpet makes it feel a damn sight older than it is! An obvious rival for the established and favourite Leadmill, with the financial clout and booking policy of the Academy means the Leadmill have to stand up and take note and personally we suspect it won't be our last visit here neither. Support: They walk off as we walk in, they do get a good reception though! The Band: The fact that the venue isn't sold out seems to play on the bands minds as it is mentioned mid set but that aside they seem to be in pretty good spirits. The new boy seems to have settled in pretty well and now looks the part too, shame they can't shut him up as he does seem to talk some right crap! The kick off with an 'oldie' to get everyone in the right mood, 'Raoul' is then quickly followed by 'Responsible citizen', the opener to new album 'It's a fix' (which they shamelessly plug on numerous occasions!). 'Raoul' is given a bit of new lease of life and 'Responsible Citizen' is a good taster to the new stuff. As you'd expect from The Automatic there's plenty of life and energy and bizarrely this is transferred to the crowd where a moss pit grows at the back of the crowd! There's plenty of enthusiasm for the second album, 'Magazines' and 'This ship' both have their trademark choruses and guitar friendly sound only 'It's a fix' which on record is a highlight disappoints as it turns into a bit of a musical dirge. As you'd expect they also role out the 'hits' with 'Monster' living up to it's name as ever but 'Recover' actually sounds better live, still as fresh as the day it was recorded. From their live lounge tradition of playing them live after radio broadcast they murder Usher's average 'Love in the club' it goes down really well, plenty of ironic (hopefully) arms in the air but to be fair it ain't no golddigga. They top off the evening by hammering out the mega 'Steve McQueen' there is no doubt that it's a top tune and they give it a real good going over, Sheffield responds in kind too. There is no encore, it would be doubtful they could top 'Steve McQueen' anyway and as soon as they are off the stage the house lights are up and the punters quickly disperse, despite a few calls for a return. Verdict: There were plenty of doubts and questions surrounding The Automatic after Pennie's departure and the luke warm reception their 'come back' tour received but tonight those doubts are put firmly to bed. It's good hearty indie pop fare which goes down pretty well just a shame it weren't a sell out.

Shadders scorelines

Atmosphere - 8

Ability - 8

Effort - 9

The Automatic value for money - 8


The Beaus

Venue: The Priory, Doncaster. This is the 'hot' venue, which has attracted some of the most happening scenes bands from around the country during the last twelve months. Bit strange then that this is our first visit. A lot of time and cash has been thrown at this place, as it looks the picture, cool bar upstairs then the venue / club downstairs with another glam bar. It's a free gig with plenty of local bands on the menu so the fact it isn't packed is a bit of a disappointment. Support: Due to a farce with buses we miss The Thieves, which is also a disappointment! We caught a bit of their Doncaster Music Live set a few weeks since and they were pretty good. Reminded us of Sheffield's The Chartists; got that retro rock sound going down. The Band: First things first, The Beaus look the part, brought together by a obvious love of Fred Perry they look like a band that could easily grace the covers of the music press. Musically we have then currently as the second best band from Doncaster, trailing the marvellous Ayschamps but they have age on their sides as the youngest is a mere 16 and the oldest 18 so plenty of time for an overtaking manoeuvre. They have quite an ear for music as they seem to be able to blend a bit of clash, bloc party, libertines, arctic monkeys but without ever sounding like a pastiche of any one band. One thing that does make them sound different is Dougy's vocal style, at times it almost comes across as spoken word. However, there is a fairly big criticism of Dougy's vocals, firstly at times they get a bit swamped by the music and also they aren't always crystal clear but these can easily ironed out with a few tweaks here and there. It has to be said that for a three piece they make quite a racket and it looks pretty effortless, the drummer is a star in the making and he makes it look really, really easy and the bassist has quite the swagger about him. Verdict: Not quite the finished article but one of the best bands to come out of Doncaster for the last five or so years. So if they just do a few tweaks around the live vocals and keep progressing as they have the future sure is bright for The Beaus.

Shadders scorelines

Atmosphere - 7

Ability - 8

Effort - 8

The Beaus value for money - 8 (the only money changing hands is over the bar!)


Indie Tracks

Venue - Midland Railway Centre

Now this has to be the strangest festival in the calendar as it's home is a steam / heritage railway. Yes that's right a railway, in fact the main stage is actually in the engine shed! In fact it's not as weird as it sounds, in fact it actually works really well which is why they are back for their second year. Along with the engine shed stage there's an outdoor stage (basically the back of a lorry - which we believe is common place and how the Truck Festival got it's name) on a large, neat grassed area and then there's a further stage in a church. The church stage looks really cool in fact, it's a tin church, which looks, like it would be well at home in the badlands of America. 

We arrive at Butterley in deepest Derbyshire to find we have just missed one of the many train shuttles to the site at Swanwick, we ask the 'station staff' when the next one will be and there's a shrug of the shoulders and an answer of 'whenever'! Well it's a nice day so we walk, it only takes about ten minutes and we beat the train by a country mile, bit laid back these preserved railways. We are greeted by a pleasant young lady who give us our wristbands and we spend a few minutes chatting to the promoter, a nice chap by the name of Stuart, which kind of sets the tone for the day. It's just so damn friendly, a real breathe of fresh air. If you've been to big mega festivals like V, Leeds or T in the Park there is always a bit of an edge, an element of the attendees that aren't there for the music but just to get hammered, like a provincial town's Saturday night only in a field! 

We amble over to the main stage inside the engine shed, which actually is pretty new and looks a bit like a mini B&Q but that said the sound is pretty good so no problems there. We walk into the final song by (we think) Pocketbooks and there seems to be as many people on stage as in the crowd, turns out they've been invited onto the stage for a good old fashioned dance and as they rejoin the crowd there's smiles aplenty. As we walk out into the bright summer sun I find a quid on the floor; things just keep getting better, well for me anyway. 

We take a pleasant stroll around the site, we take a look at the church stage which is rammed and looks really cool, however, as it's bloody hot outside and it's a tin church you can feel the heat as you stand next to the door. We give it a miss and wander over to the outdoor stage, an all girl band are on, seem pleasant enough and again we have no idea who they are! There's plenty sat around enjoying the set and they seemed to be enjoying it too. We continue onto the railway buffet so a member of the shadders team can get some snap, he elects to have an ice cream sundae and we have a chat to a couple he knows, again how very civilised. 

We decide once ice cream has been scoffed to make our way back over to the main stage to see Airport Girl, not that we have any idea who they are but that's not the point. As we enter the building there's a well-stocked and reasonably priced bar so I invest the found quid (and a bit more) on a bottle of Twaites beer, now you don't get that at Carling Weekender or T in the Park! I later find out they have real ales straight from the barrel, now that's a bit of a result. Anyhow there's a fair crowd for Airport Girl who to be fair sound pretty good, kind of obvious indie guitar pop with a bit of an alt country edge, oh and a pretty cellist too. About halfway through their set the bassist makes a comment on how they are going to get a bit rockier so anyone of a twee disposition should leave the building, he laughs and then says better not as they'd be nobody left! And that's the other point about the majority here, The Smiths were probably a bit mainstream for them and Belle and Sebastion are sell outs for actually selling more than ten albums (on coloured vinyl no doubt)! All jolly nice to a man though! Airport Girl hardly get 'rocky' but they do get plenty of feet moving and for their final song they end up as a kind of indie super group with three lovely backing singers and a guest vocalist. 

Back out into the sunlight we kind of bump into Dave Gedge who is the real reason why we are here for their headline set. He jokes that he charges a fiver a pop for a photo but let's us take a few snaps anyway. We then have a few minutes discussing the fact he likes playing unusual venues (this fit's that bill) and then the antics of Doctor Beeching (who to the uninformed shut down hundreds of railways like this one during the 1960's). 

The next hour or so is a blur of sunshine, The Lodger and bloke from Derby playing an acoustic session in a herbal tea tent, a few lagers / beers and a bit of heritage train spotting. Our ambling means we miss all bar the final song of the set by Comet Gain who pack the main stage and get a splendid reception after their finale. 

We know that there's a bit of time before the Wedding Present take the stage for their headline slot so we head back out to the outdoor stage for a bit of air and see who is on. It transpires that Punk TV the headliners of that stage are on, we have a bit of time so we decide to give them a few minutes. Turns out that they are from Siberia via Moscow but Punk TV definitely bring Russian music in from the cold. They look the part, always like the long hair and hooped shirt look (takes me back to my shoegaze youth) but Punk TV have quite a bite to them. They also have quite a beat about them too, comparisons are made between them and Soup Dragons whilst they cite New Order as an influence. It's a bit of shock to the system to see a Russian band in the middle of Derbyshire on the back of a truck but it works and they are sensational. 

Unfortunately time moves on we have to head back over to the main stage as The Wedding Present draw ever closer. In fact as we get a quick beer Gedge and co are already making their way onto the stage. There's quite some history between us and The Wedding Present, in fact our first Weddoes gig is nearly seventeen years ago (Wakefield Rooftop Gardens if you are interested) and the album 'Seamonsters' is an ever present in our top three albums since it's release (we invested in the American version for the single B sides!). Throughout the years they have never, ever disappointed live neither and they aren't going to make an exception tonight, it's a blinder. Gedge is in top form with plenty of banter with the crowd and they play an eclectic mix from throughout the vast catalogue and long career. Gedge even throws in an old Cinerama song, his other band when he took a Wedding Present hiatus. As we able towards the front the first of many old 'uns are banged out 'Suck' is an emotional bombshell and true Wedding Present gem. We love the fact that a member of the crowd asks (well shouts) for 'Montreal' and he says he'll see if he can learn it in twenty minutes. About twenty minutes later he's playing it, obviously on the setlist all along but what a star response. Musically The Wedding Present verge from frenzied guitar murder to the twee indie pop but it's the former we love. Nobody can argue that 'Brassneck' isn't a true indie classic and gets a welcome outing but it's the finale that really is the highlight. After Gedge traditionally announces that they don't do encores they blast through first 'Dalliance' and the 'Dare' what an ending. These two 'Seamonster' classics are a right beating to the senses, hardly easy listening but lyrically and musically second to none. What a way to end, they be some sore limbs and bruises to those down the front but it's always well worth a bit of physical pain to go with Gedges emotional musical onslaughts. Simply stunning. 

We grab a last beer to cool us down on our way out of the engine shed and head over to the station, no dark walk back to Butterley for us. The heritage diesel unit is already sat their waiting for us as it quietly fills up, others stay onsite for the promise of an indie disco which is quite tempting except our man has the prospect of a stella drive half way across Europe to Erfurt in former East German the following day. There's plenty of chat on the short train hop back, it's all about what a fantastic time everyone has had. We fully endorse these sentiments, probably the best festival we've been to in many a long year and here's hoping for another next year in 2009.


Doncaster Music Live 2008

Venue: This is one of the more 'unique' venues on the festival circuit. It basically in Doncaster famous market place with a decent sized stage plonked outside of the good-looking Corn Exchange building. It's actually not bad as it's paved so no muddy feet and it's flanked by a couple of pubs so there's proper beer and real toilets handy too. Now in it's third year with previous headliners of The Bluetones and last year Leeds miserablists The Wedding Present. The real decider is that it's completely free, no text competitions, tickets, booking fees just turn up and enjoy.

Tiny Dancers - One of the few local bands on the Saturday night (Sunday was devoted purely to the brightest local talent) Tiny Dancers make the short journey for the second year. Judging by both years they haven't really improved none so we hit the bar!

Elliott Minor - It has to be said that in the youth market Elliot Minor really are big box office and they have quite the following assembled by the time they hit the Doncaster stage. Fair play to Elliot Minor they have worked damn hard and seem constantly on the road plus some clever major label marketing that have seen the band hit the charts with good regularity. Their debut longer player is a bit too polished for it's own good and strays far too often into ballad territory. Fortunately live they gain some roughness back and sound more like a rock band than a pop act. In fact they seemed to have rocked out quite a bit, so it's more muse than mcfly! There's a bit of the old busted about sections of the fans though, what's all this holding up messages for the band business, bizarre. All in all it's good fun and songs like 'Time after time' should see them well.

Elliot Minor - Shadders scoreline 9

Atmosphere - 9

Ability - 8

Effort - 9

The Rascals - Compared to Elliot Minor The Rascals seem like old age pensioners! Actually what they are a more 'conventional' indie band with a more obvious retro sound. They have a great look and quite the provenance with the Last Shadow Puppets / Arctic Monkeys connection. They don't have the raw energy of an Elliott Minor but have the swagger of a band that know they are damn good. They have a big old 60's sound and you can tell almost instantly that they come from Liverpool, the scouse musical linear runs all the way through them and their music. A relaxed half-hour or so which is time well spent with The Rascals on stage.

The Rascals - Shadders scoreline - 8

Atmosphere - 7

Ability - 9

Effort - 8

The Levellers - We at Shaddersonline have been more than critical of the choice of The Levellers as headliners of this years Doncaster Music Live but they have drawn the biggest crowd yet so maybe they complete has beens then! Now really compared to Elliott Minor The Levellers actually are old age pensioners and the age of the crowd seems somewhat older than a couple of hours earlier. They may be older but as The Levellers hit the stage both parties roll back the years, the atmosphere down the front is electric as the folk punk rock is hit out at a frantic pace. With a couple of decades under their belt they have a huge body of work but it never deviates from the tried and trusty Levellers formula. They look like they always have; bloke with dreads, clothes that Gok Wan would have a heart attack over and a bloke playing a fiddle! There's huge cheers for the 'big' anthems with 'Beautiful Day' especially going down well, after all it's one that everyone can sing along to. But the 'highlight' is the song that made their 'indie legend' status, that is 'One Way'. And for this we have a little addition, yes it's a bloke in a skirt with green hair playing a didgeridoo! The crowd go that crazy that half the stewards have to ensure the barriers don't collapse, the other half can't be bothered with that as they are dancing like loons! For whatever we think about the booking of The Levellers it cannot be argued that they can still draw a crowd and strap it on like pro's and for that we doff our crusty caps and salute them!

The Levellers - Shadders scoreline 8

Atmosphere - 9

Ability - 8

Effort - 8

Doncaster Music Live value for money - 10 (it's free, local and a few good bands too)


The Chartists

Venue: Doncaster Vintage Rockbar. A great venue, downstairs at the Rockbar is excellently suited to The Chartists, cool surroundings with ice cold vier on tap! Another rather fine aspect of the Rockbar's bands policy is that usually there's no door charge, so it's a bloody cool venue and it's nowt to get in, double bubble then! Support: A couple of local supports which verge from the sublime to the ridiculous! First up are Sheffield's Kalenko who are dark and brooding and the sublime element of the equation. Mutterings around the rockbar suggest Interpol and Radiohead influences and the guitars are pretty full on. The ridiculous part comes from the most horrific 'rawk' band ever, the haircuts are dreadful and the music even worse, so we dart back upstairs to avoid wanting to remove our ears with blunt rusty knives to save our sanity. The Band: Let's face it The Chartists nail their influences well and truly onto their flagpost, but thankfully there aren't many that don't like the Rolling Stones! Lead singer, Joe Hudson has the swagger and confidence to really pull the job off; he has a look of Vernon Kay but all the moves of a Mick Jagger. They look good, play hard and sound on the money, hell it ain't gonna win many awards for originally but who cares when it's sounds so damn good. Stuff like 'Walk on water' has all the characteristics of the stones at the pomp or perhaps even Primal Scream at their best.  Verdict: The Chartists are the latest in a long line of bands since the '60's to take the rock and mix it with it with the blues and bang it out loud and proud. It's a fine line though and if you get it wrong you look and sound really stupid but fortunately The Chartists are well on the right side of that line. A fittingly cool performance to go with the cool venue.

Shadders scorelines

Atmosphere - 8

Ability - 8

Effort - 8

The Chartists value for money - 9 (hell it's free and they were pretty damn good!).


Elbow

Venue: Sheffield University - Octagon. The biggest of the Sheffield student union venues, the Octagon has always been a bit of a fav of ours. It's going to face some competition from the new Carling Academy but that's not to worry about tonight. Rumour has it it's a sell out, well we hear a bloke saying he'd bought the second to last ticket so that's good enough for us. Support: Two Gallants. We never saw them but Guy was most enthusiastic about them, he even advises everyone to buy their merchandise too! The Band: It seems like a lifetime ago that Elbow were last in the neighbourhood, in fact it's only a couple of years but back they are with their fourth lp, 'The Seldom seen kid'. By this stage in their career they have absolutely nothing to prove and by the relaxed mood Guy and the lads are in they're going enjoy themselves as much as their paying public. Like the Reverend the previous night Guy's banter is nearly as entertaining as the music, he is in fine form and obsesses about the importance of manners; he's obviously nice about it though! First single 'Grounds for divorce' the 'comeback' single is typically Elbow except for a harder edge. There's plenty of evidence that the reflective, melancholic elbow still remain and sounding still in pretty good shape. There's even plenty of reminders of their glorious past to go with their stunning present, 'Newborn' is dedicated to the members of the band that have just become fathers again, Guy jokes about how when he's 97 he'll still be doing this except with their sons rather than them in the band, the song sounds as fantastic as ever. It's stuff like this that shows what an exceptional voice Guy has, we hear somebody joke he has the face of a bricklayer and the voice of an angel! We also get the highlights from their alleged difficult third album; 'Leaders of the free world' is good but 'Forget myself' is magnificent. As we're in Sheffield Guy says it's a shame that Richard Hawley can't be here to play on 'The Fix' as he does on the record, oh no he's joking and he's Richard Hawley (looking like the classic fifties throwback) ambling on stage! Guy and Hawley have a good joke about their meeting on a transatlantic flight which ends with Hawley doing the worse German impression in the world ever, fortunately they then get down to some business. In his buoyant mood as they leave the stage Guy laughs that they'll obviously be back for more and that everyone has to sing them back on, he's tells everyone that to the tune of yellow submarine they have to sing we are live in Pete Turner's hair! He laughs and the crowd do indeed get them back on stage with Pete Turner's hair song! It's a good job they do too as for the finale they do indeed leave the best for last. 'Grace under pressure' is awesome; its beauty is only surpassed by its power. It's slightly marred by the security assault on a stage invader, but as good manners goes Guy virtually calls a halt to proceedings to try and calm the situation and ensure he's alright. By the way Hawley returns to the stage to join in, the perfect end to a near perfect gig. Verdict: Special guest stars, frontmen in top form, stunning light show just add to a catalogue of songs that most of their contemporaries would die for. Do gigs get much better than this?

Shadders scorelines

Atmosphere - 8

Ability - 10

Effort - 9

Elbow value for money - 9


Reverend and the Makers

Venue: Sheffield Academy. It's first night at the Carling Academy after it's extensive and indeed expensive conversion from flea pit nightclub to uber venue. It's a great choice for opening night too; Sheffield's current favourite son's Reverend and the Makers. The place looks pretty cool too, decent voice from around the place and unusually a 500 capacity standing room balcony rather than out of it upstairs seats. The money seems to be well spent but the opening night queues at the bar are just plain stupid and will have to be addressed for future shows, a happy punter is obviously a punter with a pint of carling in his hand, but there's one hell of a wait tonight. Support: Some rap type which remind shadders why we don't really do rap or hip hop because generally (especially live) it's a load of tosh! As normal there's some bloke shouting about this and that but behind him is somebody with a box on his head, some twerp who looks like he's just been kicked out of the neu rave backlash and two chav lasses who just stand about looking not very bothered. Quite a spectacle but unfortunately not a very good one, bring on the Rev. The Band: Arriving on stage fashionably late come the Reverend Jon McClure and his band of his merry Makers, this one off homecoming show is something of a no pressure party gig and McClure and co are well up for a bit of that.  The Reverend is true to his title too as he blasts out some gobshite sermons to his congregation! He enthuses that you shouldn't believe what the papers say, think for yourself and listen to Roots Manuva! He also makes no apologies for smoking on stage stating that Gordon Brown ain't gonna stop him having a cig and he'll have to pay a two grand fine for the privilege, not that he's bothered about that! Back on the musical front the best bits from the 2007 stand out album 'State of things' are all given an outing much to the delight of his home crowd. In fact it's the tune 'State of things' that's the first to really show but it's only a slight prelude to the mayhem that is caused by 'Heavyweight champion of the world' this is a monster song that is well suited to the Reverend's live style and none too suprising the place goes ballistic! '18-30' is booted out to great effect soon after with McClure saying it's name is something about pricks on holiday in Benidorm, it's a great example of why Reverend and the makers work, great lyrics and a buzzing beat with plenty of energy. McClure turns his attention to the security staff advising that they should be 'tested out' as they're only on trial! He pulls the notices attached to each of the stage monitors stating that crowd surfing is punishable by death (well eviction from the venue anyway) and throws them into the crowd, it's a red rag to a bull with this lot as there's surfing aplenty even though their next song is one of their slowest! In fact with the Rev the rants are nearly as good (nearly!) as the tunes. He does a bit of poetry, has a pop at politicians, why you shouldn't stand for shite jobs and then goes on about how proud people should be of Sheffield bands and how they should get out on a Tuesday night supporting their local bands. His most interesting piece is about the former life of the Carling Academy as the Roxy's nightclub. He decides to do an interactive straw poll of how people first came here, how many people got pissed here and then how many people have had sex here! He then laughs as a bloke shouts out from the crowd, the Rev then says it was probably them but they've changed a bit since then! They finish with a blast through 'He said he loved me' with over the top and energetic duel vocals, goes down a treat. The band leave the stage to a heroes reception whilst Jon waits around to the acclaim of the crowd, he then grabs his coat and says he's going to continue outside then legs it. The venue awash with the feeling there's gonna be something special outside head for the exit. Unfortunately two thousand odd folk and one door make for a disaster in the making, in a city cast with the shadow of Hillsborough this ain't a good thing. Once outside there's enough coppers around to arrest everyone and no sign of the Reverend. There's some waiting around in the cold evening air before the crowd disperses into the steel city's suburbs. Verdict: Not quite the killer gig the shadders team witnessed at the Leadmill last year but that was one of the best gigs of all time! Still great performance and a pretty good venue, the place just need to sort the beer and exits out and we can't wait to be back.

Shadders scorelines

Atmosphere - 8

Ability - 9

Effort - 9

Reverend and the makers value for money - 8


Doncaster Music week: BBC Radio Raw Talent Gig

Venue: Doncaster Leopard. The original local venue that of late has been eclipsed somewhat by newcomers The Priory and Vintage Rockbar, even so it's still pretty apt to include the place as part of the Doncaster music week events. The free ticketing means that the place is damn well packed too. The Bands: Darren Bell. Walking on as we're handed back our ticket stub is pretty well good timing. Darren is pretty much alone up on stage but with a variety of knobs and whistles he beefs up his acoustic show. Neat tricks include singing into a second mic and looping them into backing vox and making a quick slap on the guitar, tap on the old effects pedal and hey presto… drums! Acoustic he certainly is but there isn't too much whimsical about the music, in fact vocally he is a bit reminiscent of shadders fav gobshite Lee Griffiths (and in our eyes there isn't much better an accolade than that). Bizarrely virtually every song has no title, one gets a name from the crowd whilst another is the subject of some inter studio banter that gains a title something akin to woodland creatures eating cheese, despite all that they all get a stella reception. Good honest fair and that damn fine by us. The Beaus. This lot are the stylish bunch making big waves on the scene but things go tits up from the off. Firstly they don't half look the part but Dougy; chief beau encounters big problems before even playing a note. Unfortunately as the guitars and samplers go down so does his mood with them, never a good idea to strop on stage in front of a packed house! It never really hits the highs of their obvious promise; there's plenty to attract the disciples; part libs, bit clash and a tad bloc party just not tonight. It's not great but The Beaus but they will have other nights, bigger stages and we're sure better days. The Alychamps. The Beaus may have been a bit of a damn squid but all hail The Alychamps who are the other end of the spectrum, stunning. Tonight they are the kings of Doncaster and have the Leopard in the palm of their hands from the off. Ross Cameron is a star in the making, the most charismatic frontman this side of Sheffield, a bit of Jarvis with stage presence to burn and balls of steel to match. The rest of The Alychamps are unfairly eclipsed by their frontman which is a compliment to him as they are spot on and never put a foot wrong. They all deserve to move up from this as this is damn special but for tonight they bask in the glory for they are truly kings of this here town. In a strange quirk of fate they aren't actually the headline act but for the bbc local radio, who have taped all tonights acts for broadcasting across the Yorkshire network, M101 are last up. Unfortunately for them about half the crowd have decided that The Alychamps were headliners and have already bogged off. Despite this M101 get up and do their thing anyway, they do that jumping around punk pop rock thing and are pretty good at it too. They even get to extend their set past the allotted songs required for the wireless and end the proceedings on a bouncy high. Verdict: Doncaster Music Week is a fantastic addition to the local music calendar and another string to the scenes bow. The bands tonight have shown that the talent is here and given the opportunity they'll light up venues like this. Undoubtedly The Alychamps were the highlight but overall a great idea has been transformed into a great night's entertainment, nice one.

Shadders scorelines

Atmosphere - 9

Ability - 8

Effort - 8

Value for money - 9 (it was free anyway!)


Sam Isaac

Venue: Doncaster Vintage Rockbar. Arguably the coolest alternative bar in the town at present and hosts hundreds of gigs a year in a downstairs room. The venue itself is pretty small but has the feel of say a Cavern club except unfortunately it does seem to share the smell with the toilets which are also situated downstairs! Other than that, yeah, it's pretty smart. Support: First up Above Them which are a bit of an odd one out as they are a straight forward rock band whereas what follows is definitely well in the realms of indiedom. Not that there is anything wrong with Above them, far from it. They are good at what they do and the singer complains that his voice is 'knackered' too although that could add the rock roughness. It's a quick jump across the West to South Yorkshire border for Above Them from Pontefract and a worthwhile one at that. My First Tooth are the main support and closer to Sam Isaac in spirit, in fact they have played with Sam a few times already and thus are relaxed and comfortable with the gig. In fact My First Tooth are a duo, male singer & guitarist (who does share a look of Sam) and a multi talented girl who plays a variety of wacky looking instruments but fortunately for the majority of the evening she reverts to a violin. Musically it's good stuff, laid back acoustic old skool indie which borders on just about right side of folk.  The Band: The foundations are neatly laid by My First Tooth for Sam Isaac to take to the stage, for the next leg of his tour Sam will perform with a full band but he's here as a pared down duo tonight. It's therefore more lo fi acoustic pop but it's upbeat and always has a decent tune. Sam is not just in fine voice neither he's pretty chatty with the hardy souls that have braved the rain and force nine gails (that have caused chaos according to the news down south). In fact he's pretty obsessed by a recent spell in Canada, not only do a number of songs gain their titles from across the Atlantic but there's a few bizarre stories too. The most notable involves Sam nearly burning down the house of which the basement he was lodging in, the interest comes in the fact he did it by burning fish fingers and has to mention several times the dog in the house was unharmed but gutted it missed out of the fishy snack! Verdict: Perhaps most telling is that Sam Isaac got a Doncaster crowd on a cold Monday night clapping along which is no mean feet! This illustrates that the guys obviously has some talent and presence too. The acoustic indie pop sector may well be a bit on the busy side at the moment but there should always be room for a Sam Isaac.

Shadders scorelines

Atmosphere - 7

Ability - 9

Effort - 8

Sam Isaac value for money - 8


Athlete

Venue: Hull University - The Asylum. It's a good set up this, a dance floor down a level, which means there's plenty of vantage points for those not wanting to get too close to the action. The only downside to the humble photography is they forgot that security and others actually need to get into the pit in front of the stage. So anyone who needs access has to climb over a balcony six feet down, not an easy feet at the best of times and even worse when trying to get back up! Back to the gig, it ain't sold out in advance but there's enough takers of 'bargain' face value tickets (avoiding ticketshark.com booking and transaction fees) to bolster the crowd to a near capacity. Support: Boy Kill Boy. Unfortunately due to the fact it's a good two year since the last time we were here and some rather dodgy Hull signs we get in just as Boy Kill Boy are finishing which is bloody annoying to put it mildly. They look the part as ever and the two minutes we see look pretty good! The Band: Athlete still get slated for not been the most exciting of bands and that criticism isn't just saved for their records but their live performances too. To a point that's fair, you aren't going to get blood and guts nor a high tempo affair but what you do get is a dependable, solid and frankly a decent night out. That's the crack with Athlete what they lose in 'excitement' you get a set full of cracking melodies and singalong tunes. They trademarked the Athlete 'sound' with the debut album and taken it right through to the third long player 'Beyond the neighbourhood' all of which are included in a lengthy set list. From that third album the singles 'Toyko' and especially 'Hurricane' take the eye, the latter is a damn fine pop song. A suprising highlight is a midset solo performance of 'Beautiful' which lives up to its name and is stunning. But as we've said before the jewel in the Athlete crown is 'Wires'. It's quite a formidable tune in it's own right which is always a winner live but take a step back and listen to the lyrics, it's a very rare beast, a intimately personal song that works on so many levels. It gets a cracking response. Verdict: It ain't ever gonna be hundred mile an hour stuff but Athlete again prove to be a solid live draw with an arsenal of top tunes. That's the deal with Athlete, pure and simply great music.

Shadders scorelines

Atmosphere - 6

Ability - 9

Effort - 8

Athlete value for money - 8


Amy Macdonald

Venue: Sheffield Leadmill. First time in '08 for us at 'Leadmill and it promises to be a good 'un with a sell out crowd expected and the Leadmill never lets us down, or does it? Support: No idea but there's some twerp absolutely murdering The Cure on stage when we arrive, thank heavens he's exit stage left straight after! The Band: Amy MacDonald. On she comes to some pride of tartan style backing tune, now why does everyone from Scotland as soon as they step over the border have to be one great advert for the place, we know where you're from, get over it! First impressions aren't sparkling as she hardly looks like she'll win smiler of the year but hey we're here for the music so sing on. It's all very nice and technically it's spot on but there's something missing, atmosphere and a connection with the 'fans'. The place is indeed packed but the usual Leadmill vibe has been taken over by some sterile bunch of Guardian readers more akin to a night down the local arena than at the pride of the north. The feet only get tapping on the few real movers but mainly it's applause in the right places and polite laughter at the lengthy between song Macdonald rambles. Of the high points there are few, most of the dinner party favourite 'This is the life' is aired along with a few new tracks but she never looks like she's having any fun with it, it's all really serious which is a bit alarming for one so young. In fact the one track she can have a laugh with is her cover of 'Mr Brightside' but it is just dreadful, she manages to squeeze every last drop of style and charisma out of it. The Killers would be topping themselves if they heard it so they could be spinning in their graves! Oh and for the first track of the encore she does the track that sounds like a Scottish tourist board advert! Verdict: This isn't how it should have been tonight, the album is rather good but her fanbase seem more interested in chatting than dancing and Amy herself can do little to lift the place. Musically it's solid if uneventful but otherwise it's a bit of a damp squid, distinctly uninspiring.

Shadders scorelines

Atmosphere - 0

Ability - 8

Effort - 6

Amy Macdonald value for money - 4


The best from darn the front in 2007.


Ian Brown

Venue: Doncaster Dome. Crikey gigs like buses? Don't have any decent ones at the Dome for ages then Friday night it's Pigeon Detectives followed by Ian Brown on Saturday, corking weekend. As expected it's a sell out and there's plenty of touts on duty. Support - Can't comment much as only saw a couple of numbers but it tells you enough about the man. The main support act is rap followed by a DJ spinning old skool soul a la Wigan Pier. It's this diversity that makes Ian Brown such a unique artist. Main Event - Cometh the hour cometh the Greatest, Ian strides out to a heroes welcome the place buzzing in anticipation and they ain't no way the man is going to disappoint. It's a wide and varied set; featuring new cuts (latest single 'Sister Soul' is an early success) solo classics and oh yes some welcome Roses, more of which later. There's also a welcome addition to his band too, former Smith Andy Rourke joins on bass, in fact he's obviously to blame for the fuck up in 'Lovebug' not that it matters they laugh it off and start afresh! Brown looks well at ease and even feels the need to whip up the Donny crowd by makes cheap jibes about Yorkshire lads, it's all well and truly tongue in cheek and taken on the whole in fair jest. The lads do give Brown plenty of slack as they find the groove in masterful renditions of greats like 'Dolphins were monkeys', Corpses' and 'Longsight M13'. But this a mere warm up for what comes later, the main set is finished with a full and epic 'I am the resurrection' it is just, well, fucking awesome! The roof is nearly lifted off the place, people are singing along not just to Brown but to the guitar parts too, it's spot on, absolute perfection. By this stage the place is keyed up big time and when Brown and the lads reappear the encore is just sublime, they kick off with 'Golden gaze' follow with 'I wanna be adored' and 'Fools Gold' then end with 'FEAR', just try and beat that! 'Golden Gaze' is just such a great tune and the dancing continues but when the opening bars of 'I wanna be adored' pipe up it's musical heaven, just try and stand still to Ian Brown singing the Roses, it just can't be done! Now 'Fools Gold' leaves everyone a tad perplexed, it's 'Fools Gold' musically but Brown sings a different song over it, it ain't bad just a bit bizarre! Now lets be fair The Stone Roses were Gods amongst men but Ian Brown has created something to equal what the Roses managed, that one song is 'FEAR' and that's why Brown finishes this gig with it and why it gets such an enthusiast response. Lyrically it's simplicity is why it works so well and musically it just sums Brown up, loose grooves and just so, so catchy. It's plain and simply brilliant. Verdict - Fantastic expectations amazing revelations!


The Pigeon Detectives

Venue - Doncaster Dome. It weren't long since The Pigeon Detectives were second on the bill at the local toilet circuit venue, The Leopard (we know as we were there!) and now they sell out this vast sports arena with ease. In fact they are safe in the and in fact buoyed by the knowledge their homecoming show at The Millennium Square, Leeds next May has already sold out. Doncaster expects then. Support - Possibly what Doncaster doesn't expect is a stunning guest appearance by Sheffield's Milburn.  Another band in good form after their sell out home town gig the night before Milburn have got an easy ride tonight, a rammed hall with plenty of local support. They make good use of the vibe too as they knock out a stella performance. Always also rans to the mega success of Arctic Monkeys but a slight change of musical emphasis has led Milburn to really become their own men. 'What will you do when the money goes' still has that pure pop melody and leads to plenty of chants of 'Milburn, Milburn'. They finish proceedings with 'What you could've won', the highlight of their debut album 'Well Well Well' quite a fitting end to the most success of support slots, job well and truly done. Main Event - Any nerves then? Hell no The Pigeon Detectives on tonight's evidence look like the big stages have been their destiny from day one and they love it! From the moment bundle of energy and lead singer Matthew Bowman kicks off the place goes mental, he jumps around as much as the crowd and vice versa. Tonight it seems like one last mammoth celebration of the year that The Pigeon Detectives hit the bigtime and as expected they place all the songs that catapulted from the indie second division to premier league mega unit shifters. To be fair to the pigeons they ain't done it on hype they have the songs to back them up and the album 'Wait for me' is solid gold. So where do we start then? Well they play a few new tracks which ain't so bad and act as a good breather for the masses so when 'Take her back' is dropped the place can go absolutely mental; bodies, sweat and beer all over the place. The songs fit a pretty well trod path, short and spiky with plenty of guitars but with a chorus that begs to be sung along to, and there's plenty of singing along down tonight. Take current single 'I found out' for a pretty decent example if Mathew felt the need for a breather it wouldn't really matter as the volume off stage is nearly as high as that on it. To whip them up further Matthew flies all over the place including jumping off the top of the amp stack (which I'm sure ain't the best idea he's ever had, but looked ace!) and singing the 'Donny, Donny, Donny' song coined by fellow West Yorkies The Kaiser Chiefs and Chris Moyles on their visit to these shores. So as the house lights come up and the sodden Doncaster public walk out into the bitter November night they know they've seen something pretty special, good night to be from Yorkshire then, too right.


The Whip

Venue: Leeds Cockpit. We're back in the small room for this intimate affair and it's absolutely packed to the rafters. It always has a pretty decent feel to it in here when it's full so we're expecting a cracking atmosphere and hopefully some movement too (it has had a tendency in here to be a venue to be seen in rather than join in). Support - Rochelle. One of those new electro pop bands that have sprung up across the country in the last couple of years Rochelle are led by the captivating and photogenic Lydia. She easily gets the crowd moving which is no easy task for a support act. They are lively and throw down some great grooves: so with Lydia's great cabaret style stage presence, the tunes and crowd on their side Rochelle are a real winner. Main Event - This nu rave thing is probably about over by now, after all the NME will be looking for something new to bull up which is good news if it rids us of the overrated and overblown Klaxons! But what it will leave us with is a number of blinding indie dance bands who blend dance grooves, guitars and a shit load of energy, one of these bands is The Whip. For those who don't know The Whip are three blokes and a rather natty female drummer who all like a dance. They take to the stage in a rather understated way but by the time they leap off top of the world the entire Cockpit is moving; in fact it hasn't seen dancing on this scale for quite some time. The Whip have some great influences; they suck in New Order, 808 State and possibly a bit of the Roses then mix it up with loads of keyboards, electro noodlings and blow it out with bags of energy into rip roaring great tunes. In fact we ain't seen so many people with their hands in the air and glowsticks in their pints since The Shaman were moving any mountains! Verdict - Dancing never looked so good! The Whip will rock you into dancing and that's a great combination, watch this lot 2008 is going to be one hell of a year for them. Pass us a glowstick we fancy coming along for the ride!


The Departure

Venue - Sheffield Leadmill.  Back across the M18 to the comfort of the Leadmill, almost but not quite for the return of The Departure we are relegated to the 'Steel Stage' which in other words is actually the small bar. It does make quite a nice intimate place for the hardy souls who have turned out. Support - We actually arrive in time to catch a few songs by Clocks. They are lead by a rather unkept fellow with bad hair but musically it ain't bad, plenty of feeling and guitars thrown in for good measure. Main Event - 'Dirty Words' the debut album by The Departure was actually quite the success, dark and brooding but with an eye for a good tune. So after a time away in the wilderness The Departure return with a second album in the bag and a new drummer on the stool. Fortunately The Departure have the formula for a returning band spot on, drop in loads of new songs cause lets face it we all want to see what they have to offer and the band want to test drive it before the album is on the streets.  But on the flipside they still thrown in the picks of 'Dirty Words' in fact they whip out 'Be my Enemy' early doors. It has a blinding intro, those dark crackling guitars and a chorus to die for, it's a real line in the sand, this is what we're about and there's plenty more to come. For good measure they follow up with newie '7 Years' which has getting some specialist radio play and generally positive feedback. As a band they work really well, singer David Jones decked out in doc martins, skin tight jeans and dark top looks the part and really puts his heart and soul into it, he doesn't stand about he's verging on hyperactive and is the convincing frontman. When they air old favourites 'Lump in my throat' and the excellent 'Arms around me' it gets the small but enthusiastic crowd going, Jones even congratulates one lad for the best air drumming he's ever seen! Musically there's not a load better to have come out of Northampton, it's dark but there's a good energy to it, like a Joy Division with a poppy edge or The Bravery if they had more than one song! Verdict - Signs are good that the follow up should measure favourably to 'Dirty Words' and The Departure live still appear to be a decent night out, hopefully next time more will be drawn out to join them.


The Harrisons

Venue: A quick burst up the M1 / M621 for all concerned leads us to Leeds finest, The Cockpit. Not quite ready for the main room we're shoehorned into the smaller venue, which actually has a decent vibe and sound. Support: As usual we miss one, New Vinyl but manage to have a bottle of Brooklyn beer in hand for Headway. Hailing from Nottingham Headway seem to be a more straightforward rock beast, the veer around The Who through Radiohead and into mor territory. They are pretty useful especially when heralded into darker circles but do seem to lose focus and direction so still plenty of work to do. Main Event - Harrisons have brought a few up with them from the new capital of northern music, Sheffield which improves the atmosphere no end but our correspondents suggest too much chatting towards the back of the crowd which to be fair is usual for any venue in Leeds. At the front there's plenty of dancing and getting into it, which is what is needed. Harrisons themselves are one hell of a collection of British pop culture; they manage to rake in such influences such as The Clash, The Happy Mondays, Black Grape, Oasis, Paul Weller, Stone Roses and plenty in-between. Personally we think they work best when there's plenty of grooves behind them, take 'Mondays Arms' and 'Take it to the mattress' which defo head wildly into a post baggy, guitar meets beats feast. That said the crowds fav is still former nearly hit single 'Dear Constable' which has more straight forward Clash influenced heads down guitar anthem. Verdict - Live Harrisons show why we should be proud of the musical culture this small island possesses as they use it all to pretty good effect. Even saying this if you don't add anything of worth to all these influences you end up sounding like nothing more than a tribute band, Harrisons never sound like a tribute band in fact they sound pretty damn fine. Another winner for Sheffield on tour then, oh yes indeed.


The Charlatans

Venue: Bingley Music Live. Now this is a new one on us but to be fair to the local council it's a great venue, Myrtle Park is a lovely setting with a natural hill to one side (for a great view of the stage and the big screens) and a very scenic wood directly behind the stage. On the slope are some rather large trees which give some protection to the worst nature has to offer too! On the flip side unfortunately they have vastly underestimated the amount of alcohol consumed by charlies fans and the queue at times during the undercard seems to be half of the attendees! But flip the coin again and the bill for under a tenner is stunning, it's a bargain for The Charlatans alone but throw in Milburn, The dead 60's and The Twang and you are laughing.  The Main Event - A few years since we saw The Charlatans at T in the Park and frankly found them a bit dull, the last but one album 'At the lake' we also found well of the boil. Saying that the first time we saw then way back in '92 and every other time since they have been stunning. So it's always foul hardy to write off a band with such a formidable track record like The Charlatans and 'Simplico' plus a career spanning 'Best of' leads us back into a field in West Yorkshire to see if Tim and co can 'strap it on' like The Charlatans of old. It looks good as Burgess leads the troops out to the strains of 'Nine Acre Court' he again looks the part, stylish and those good looks used to great effect. They also seem in bullish mood and before too long the place is bouncing to the likes of 'How High', 'Blackened blue eyes' and a stella 'Love is the key' it's already obvious that this is vintage Charlatans. They manage to drop a couple of new tracks into the mix without much worry, they go down well and to be fair sound the part, that's the future then what about the past? Well just get a load 'The only one I know', the keyboards are the real killer and Bingley is quite literally blown away, the mad baggy dancing in the field is pretty awful but the tune is just blinding. To others the real heyday of the band is during that Oasis fuelled britpop era where their output despite tragedies was second to none. Those wanting a bit of this ain't disappointed neither 'One to another' is dispatched to much acclaim and 'North Country Boy' (dedicated to the boys!) prompts much more car crash dancing! A bit of a surprise is the song dedicated to the girls, 'You're so pretty, we're so pretty' is a bit of a monster. It's like The Charlatans nicking the best of The Rolling Stones then getting The Chemical Brothers in to give it a bit of a kicking, all told it's sounds awesome and the energy is mind blowing. Unfortunately it's a shortened set due to early curfews and stuff but there's always an ace up The Charlatans sleeves to leave you on a high. The keyboards give the game away as the elongated intro kicks in but once it's in full effect the crowd is back in mad manc dancing, this is 'Sprolston green' and fist pumping bez dancing is compulsory! It is as ever the perfect end to a perfect headline slot. Verdict - So are The Charlatans still able to 'strap it on' then? Hell yeah! This is a great career spanning set and even manages to introduce a couple of new tracks too which points to a bright future. Even the weather manages to clear up it's act and is nice and dry so Bingley can enjoy one of the best bands of the last twenty years in full tilt. Simply The Charlatans rock!


The Wedding Present

Venue: Doncaster Live Festival. Now in it's third year this mini festival takes over part of Doncaster's famous market place, pops up a decent sized stage and gets some decent bands to play and best of all it's free! So grab a space amongst the stalls, a beer from one of the local hostelries and enjoy (oh and remember you coat as it always rains). Support - Well it's not so much as support bands but lower card on the 'festival' billing. First up that we see are OPM. A bit of a weird one this all the way from socal, USA to fourth on the bill in Doncaster! Most famous from the hit 'Heaven is a halfpipe' OPM knock out a pretty obvious line of rock, rap, pop with a bit of ska influence and like to advertise the benefits of smoking hash, swearing and like all good American rock bands repeatedly reminding the crowd where they are! They aren't bad but they aren't going to change the world neither, 'Heaven is a halfpipe' is blatantly their best tune and they milk it to good effect. Next up are The Paddingtons, hailing from Hull but that isn't held against them tonight! Sounding like The Libertines fighting with The Clash and The Sex Pistols they look and sound the real deal. They go down pretty well and deservedly so. Last up before Leeds finest are Tiny Dancers making the short hop from across the West Yorkshire border. Now these touting their debut 'Free School Milk' definitely look like a good old-fashioned indie band, pretty damn weird! They aren't re-inventing the wheel but with performance like this they seemed to have gained a few new fans. The Main Event - Ever since we first witnessed The Wedding Present way, way back in 1991 (at weird venue Wakefield Rooftop gardens no less) Dave Gedge and his ever rotating Wedding Present line up have had godlike status. Their album from that year 'Seamonsters' is in our view essential and I do mean essential listening, it catapulted the Weddoes from miserablists indie jangley guitar merchants into the realms of twisted, epic indie guitar stars. Their live performances are pretty legendary too and they definitely don't disappoint tonight neither. There's plenty down the front, with a number of hardcore fans who know every word. They do a far too short a set but it's interspersed with some absolute gems. 'My Favourite Dress' is a real old skool crowd pleasers and 'Kennedy' from way back to the album 'Bizarro' gets everyone singing along. They don't sit back on their considerable back catalogue laurels either and air some new stuff too, it's typical gedge and that's always appreciated. Possibly one of their most poppy moments 'Flying Saucer' is refreshing still a great slice of indie pop but it's the combination from 'Seamonsters' that always steal the show. 'Dare' is splendidly dark with some real twisted guitars but it's 'Dalliance' that really steals the show, as ever. It's a theme that Gedge visits repeatedly, love lost and actually always seems like three songs rolled into one. It's starts of fairly low key telling the story of an affair from the viewpoint of the party who is left as their love goes back to the long term 'proper' partner, gains some real momentum and then finally explodes into a sea of guitars and unhappiness, awesome. As ever The Wedding Present don't do encores but they never need too, Gedge still retains the ability to roll back the year, vintage stuff. Verdict - A real success story with an interesting and varied bill, Doncaster Music Live will hopefully reappear next year. The Wedding Present were worthy headliners and performed another near perfect set and all for a bargain price of nothing, excellent.


The Thrills

Venue - York Fibbers. Although this is one of the North's finest and most consistent venues the last time we were here the crowd was what can only be described as static. At the time we thought it might be something to do with how 'new' The Twang were but that theory was soon dismissed by a frenetic Leadmill show. Now with another sold out show packing the place out and the fact The Thrills after two albums hardly fit into the newcomers category so we're expecting a cracking atmosphere. Support - Findlay Brown seems pleasant enough as we knock back a few pints of grolsh (hey the black sheep is off and that's a bit of a let down!). Straight to the main event - The Thrills are back on a far too intimate a stage for their talent so we've all gotta enjoy it whilst we can. They look like the Thrills of old, slightly unkempt but definitely on the right side of cool as they try to win back their place on the top table of indie pop after the slight disappointment of 'Lets Bottle Bohemia'. Obviously as you'd expect at a low key come back show there's a shed load of stuff that will appear on the forthcoming third album 'Teenager' and it's no surprise that the Thrills formula hasn't shifted any. It's that light guitar pop that is high on melody that served so well on their cracking debut 'So much for the city' and gained them so many friends along the way. For those who were picked up with the momentum of that cracking debut there should be no disappointment as they air plenty of those early favourites. Highlights of the early hits have to be the stunning 'Santa Cruz' and a blinding 'Big Sur'. But here's the problem; the crowd once again are just mere spectators only a handful really getting into it, this ain't a game of feking statues you know! The band too pick up on this lack of 'action' but despite their best efforts they can do little to get them moving past a spot of toe tapping. Has Fibbers gone soft? It looks like it, looks far too much like a venue to be seen at rather than a proper venue to have a good old fashioned party at (suggestion - get yourself down the front at t'leadmill and enjoy!). Despite this there's plenty of applause for the new stuff and a few songs even get some head nodding which has to be seen as a major coup! The polite and enthusiastic applause get the lads back on stage of an encore that finishes with a pretty storming run through of the easy highlight from 'Let's bottle bohemia' and 'Whatever happened to Corey Haim?' is indeed a cracking way to finish off. Verdict - Plenty of plus points to take away from this as the new material sounds pretty neat n tidy and with some old favs thrown in for good measure you can't go far wrong, shame then the crowd was so damn boring!


Reverend and the Makers

Venue - Blimey, third Sunday on the trot for another trip down Leadmill way. Now this is a sold out gig and a half, later doors so by time we arrive the place is well and truly rammed to the rafters. Word round Sheffield is out about the Reverend cause bands releasing their debut single don't usually sell out this place as a matter of course but rumour has it on the grapevine that this lot are a bit special. Support - Before we get to the Reverend we are 'treated' to The Hosts another local lot making waves despite this been only their ninth gig. They look the part in their cheap charity shop suits and know where they wanna be, Killers style melodies with atomic guitars and buzzing bass. They get a stella reception but the support slot on nights like these is a doodle, having said that it's pretty neat stuff if not the most inventive. The Main Event - Being on an hour or so later than a normal Sunday session gives everyone more time to get into the spirit of things. The Leadmill's legendary disc spinners do as ever a sterling job mixing a bit of ska, reggae, indie and dance into a fab musical cocktail, just the job. By the time the house lights dim up goes the cries of 'Reverend' and when the self titled Reverend aka Jon McClure takes to the boards (after the rest of the band have kicked off) the place goes absolutely crazy, it's gonna be a big one! The Reverend is one hell of a star in the making; no in fact he's a star right here, right now! He has the look, not that he's a pretty boy, in fact he looks like part rock star, part tramp but it just works. Then he has charisma, buckets of the stuff and he knows just how to play the crowd and he always has that look in his eye that good rock legends do, a bit on the edge, never knowing what he's going to do next. Anyway onto the Makers, fair play to the girl who plays keyboards and applies some glorious vocals, as she is simply divine. The rest of the Makers provide the musical soundtrack that allows the Reverend to strut his stuff; they hit some monster grooves and buzzing guitars that enable a frenzied groove out on the dance floor. The Reverend is a lyricist in the Sheffield mould and it comes as no surprise between songs he pops in a bit of the old rock poetry, this isn't the norm no the Reverend is far from that. The debut single 'Heavyweight champion of the world' contains some bonkers but brilliant lyrics and is sung back word for word, in fact just about the entire set is sang along to near word perfect, ahh the power of the internet and home town gigs! To break from the normal gig scenario the Reverend plucks some pretty unusual guest stars including a natty rap from a local raster and a strange looking lad who transpires is one of his school friends. The Reverend tells his mate and the masses that they dreamed school days away saying that they would play a sold out gig at the Leadmill one day, that day has arrived and how. The place is just one huge party, this venue has seen some legendary gigs but rarely does it see the whole place buzzing like this, it's awesome to witness. Time catches up with everyone and soon the Reverend takes his leave and the black curtain is pulled across the stage to signal the beginning of the club night to many a groan. That's how it should be, disappointment that the band stops here but it'll live long in the memory for all concerned. Verdict - Awesome is only half the story, The Reverend is a star and the Makers provide a storming groove, just perfection. Sheffield has hit the jackpot yet again, all praise the Reverend!


The Twang

Venue - It's our weekly Sunday jaunt down t'Leadmill and with the sold out signs up well in advance of this one we're expecting a good night. Support - We're pretty well pissed off by this as we're down here early doors but still miss The Harrisons who have been getting rave reviews round these parts. Every cloud has a silver lining however as we do manage to see the Dogs who are awfully underrated and ignored and always a good catch live. They manage to mix up that post mod new wave English guitar pop genre a treat and sound as good as they look and they look pretty natty. Another performance that begs the question why aren't this band headlining venues like t'Leadmill? The Main Event - It don't seem two minutes we were heading on up to York to see what all The Twang fuss was all about. Since then the buzz has only got greater as they prepare to release that second single to the masses, the hype has brought out a bumper Leadmill crowd and judging by the reaction when The Twang takes the stage it gonna be a good 'un tonight. There was only one criticism we levelled at The Twang at York and that was there wasn't any real major connection between band and crowd but from the get go it's all going off big time. You can just tell the band are loving it and there's crowd surfing galore right from the off. In fact they dedicate a song to a lad who takes one hell of a fall, he does also offer the advice that the kid should try surfing where there is enough people to catch him else next time he'll break his neck! The crowd is that rare mix; old skool e'd manc survivors (original hoodies back out the wardrobe), music mad kids with glow sticks in hand, students catching the new musical wave and old hands who were a damn sight younger and lighter the last time they went head first over the barriers! One thing everyone has in common is they want a good night and The Twang ain't going to fail in giving them one. Sounding good on vinyl it ups several gears on stage, the streets references don't seem to be as relevant as the groove hits like a big fuck off hammer. 'Either Way' has a great bass line and the melody mixes perfectly with those twin vocals, it goes down pretty damn well. For point of fact there ain't no duds here it's a magical set, 'Ice Cream Sundae' (or even 'Ice Cream' as the setlist says) is a top tune, just hope they can get this energy down on record cause if they can manage that they'll have one of the albums of the year. There's a bonzer vibe and buzz about the music, a real post baggy, indie dance feel that just begs you to get fucking down to it and there's a venue full of takers in Sheffield! They play out with 'Wide Awake' and the place explodes, it sounds huge live with massive guitars and those twin singers going mental, classic! They reappear for a two song encore which is a riot and as the trio of bass, guitars and drums go for it after the final disappearance of the vocal twins. It's obvious that musically they are bloody excellent to back up the raucous vocals and boundless energy and that's one frightening good package. Verdict - Whether The Twang can recreate nights like these on record remains to be seen but for now this is what music is all about, awesome stuff.


The Maccabees

Venue - Hooray its Leadmill time again! We never tire of the Leadmill, which still in our humble opinion is the premier northern live venue. Support - Strangely we actually get into the Leadmill out of the torrential rain in time to catch half of main support Jack Penate. If you don't want to bother with the support you can always watch the rather fine photographic adventures of The Maccabees on the big screens that usually show ads for forthcoming shows. Anyway back to the band, he's a pleasant enough chap with a kind of Jamie T sort of way. The place is already buzzing and to say Penate goes down well is a blatant understatement although the highlight of the set has to be the abuse he asks for, no he literally does ask the crowd to shout the worst abuse they can think of at him! The best we hear is that he is a 'fat cunt', not that we think he is particularly fat, he recounts the fact he gets jibbed for his quiff! Main event - The old place is packed again despite there is still pay on the day and it's a dreadfully wet Sunday night, by the time they jump onto the stage the place is already well up for it. It's obvious that The Maccabees can feel the vibe straight away and feed off it, in fact you can feel the energy buzzing back and forth between crowd and stage, it's truly electric. So they hammer out all the best from their debut album which is to much celebration at the Leadmill is released the following day, the current single 'Precious Time' is given a huge reception and gets sang back word for word. The band are actually quite taken back by the response and do thank the crowd at every available opportunity. Live they still sound a little Maximo Park and a host of post punk influences but are able to forge at the same time to have a sound and look of their own, possibly down to the distinctive vocals style. There's plenty of sweat and bouncing tunes tonight but one of the highlights is one of the two 'slower' tunes, 'O.A.V.I.P' showcases a different side to those vocals, a bit smithsy in feel it shows that they've got more than one string to their musical bow. For proof though that they are their best with a handsome pop tune, shit loads of guitars and bouncing crowd at their whim just take 'X ray' it's just a fabulous tune and perfect for tonight. Punters who've shelled out a tenner on the door take stock as the band leave the stage knowing that they've got value for money and it's been well worth braving the conditions and then The Maccabees come back on for a much deserved encore, the place goes mental! For a fitting end they hammer out their 'love song', the crowd and band go into meltdown as the roof is nearly lifted off with much mad dancing and singing back the entire 'First Love' lyrics. Fitting we say as the final line is 'Only love, it's only love' and the Leadmill love The Maccabees! Verdict Another one of those storming Leadmill nights, can't beat them.


The Electric Soft Parade

Venue - Leeds Cockpit. Strangely it's the small room for ESP which for a band with a bit of a cult following and onto their third album is a surprise. Even so there's plenty in and quite a feeling of expectation amongst the devotees sown the front. Support - Bit of a flyer for the shadders team this one, it's just enough time to grab a bottle of Brooklyn lager and grab a decent spot and ESP are hitting the stage. Main Event - ESP are a bit of a strange band, the drummer looks like he should be a bricklayer!  Then the main components of the band, Tom White on vox & guitars plus Alex White on keys and added guitars look like they could easily the record store workers in Nick Hornsby's 'High Fidelity' especially as Alex is wearing a Jumbo records T-shirt that he gained from an earlier instore PA. Musically it's all nicely quaint indie with a capital 'I' but to be fair a shed load of bands try to break down the barriers of music and forget the fundamental aim of writing a decent tune, ESP can never have this levelled at them. They honestly ain't going to change the earth but they can write a nice melody! From the new album 'No need to be downhearted' they showcase the best tracks. 'Misunderstanding' is a lovely tune and does sound a little Boo Radleys (key that into google under nineties indie guitar songsters) whilst 'If that's the case, then I don't know' mixes great indie guitar hooks with sci fi keyboards and a catchy poppy beat. To prove their true indie credentials they also bob in a Guided by voices cover too for effect. The showstoppers however still are provided by their debut long player, 'Holes in the wall'. Still a great slice of guitar pop 'Start again' woos the crowd and 'Silent to the dark' really has them up and dancing. Despite the fact ESP are painful perfectionists, they restart songs if they go a little out and spend quite a while trying to direct the sound engineer to improve this, that and the other but they still manage to have a laugh and stay really lighthearted. Alex White has a rant about Razorlight (which prompts the drummer to try and fail in doing one of their intro's) and then goes on about just how cool that Genesis are, can he be serious?! This double edge persona leads to the monster jam finale when they kick up quite a nice, Tom trying to give it more and more depth but in the process falls off the amp stack in comical fashion that nearly knocks out the bassist! To add to the comedy when they finally come out for an encore the engineer has switched off all the amps & mics and buggered off in readiness for the club night. Tom has to, a bit red faced, shouts to thank anyone before tail between legs trudge off back stage. Verdict - ESP are the stereotypical indie guitar band with a devout (if not massive) following and to be fair they look pretty damn happy after tonight and so they should. ESP shows that indie isn't dead and there's always room for a damn fine melody.


The Hours

Venue - Leeds Cockpit. Not quite big enough to go straight into the main room The Hours take up residence in small bar, it makes it a nice intimate affair and packed too. Support - The main support comes from local duo Slow Club who are a trifle different. On paper they seem a bit White Stripes, a strange looking lad singing and guitars then a girl on drums but that's about where the similarity ends and anyway she's far better looking than Meg White! Musically it's very much lo-fi almost busker like fare but seems to go down fairly well. Main Event - For the live circuit The Hours bulk up from a duo to five piece featuring key members Antony Genn on vocals and guitars with Martin Slattery on keys / piano. All five dressed in black look the part to provide a dark moody soundtrack to a cold wet Sunday evening. They come out and perform (and it is a performance too not just a gig, yes there is a subtle difference) the vast majority of their debut long player 'Narcissus Road' and it transfers from record onto the stage with ease. In fact the vocals sound stronger, more powerful live and the rest of the band add a bigger, dynamic edge to proceedings too. Despite this bulking up of the sound there's still a vulnerability to The Hours but still manages that hard to achieve trick of sounding up lifting with it. Highlights - Is there musically a lowlight tonight? No actually there isn't, they mess up an intro but that's hardly a crime punishable by death is it! The epic single 'Back when you were good' sounds as good as ever. Genn does some excellent inter song chats too including a real monster rant about Thatcher's eighties Britain, a good proportion of the crowd won't really how desperate those times were in northern towns and cities. Genn does and gives her some rightful stick then gives it plenty on 'People Say' which is given an added dimension by the band it doesn't have on record. The dark 'Murder or suicide' is an absolute blast, the beat running through it and the keys only add to the melancholic lyrics, mesmerising. Current single 'Love you more', which we are reliably informed, is getting a decent amount of radio two airplay sounds like a real tale and a half. Then there's the encore; they go off for the slightest of brakes and are beckoned back for more. The encore then is simply stunning, Genn gives the backing story to 'I miss you' about how it's about his late father, it only adds to the power and beauty of an already lovely tune. On the flip side they joke they know the score and have to play a slow one then a fast one, the fast song is closer 'Ali in the Jungle' What a way to end too, plenty of nodding heads in the crowd as they blast through a classic single. Verdict - It's an honour to see such a quality band like The Hours in such intimate surroundings, hopefully the next time it'll be in the main hall and then beyond. Damp and cold outside everyone in The Cockpit has a nice warm feeling inside!


The Twang

Venue - York Fibbers. Cracking venue the Fibbers but with it being in the basement of possibly the worst looking building in this beautiful city and the surrounding area in the grip of a bit of a redevelopment boom there has to be question marks over the long term future of this classic old skool venue. Support - Unfortunately with a bit of a parking disaster we miss most of The Motorettes but with drink in hand we manage to catch the last couple of songs by this north east combo. What we do see is pretty convincing guitar pop, which should hold them in pretty good stead. Main event - Winging their way out of the West Midlands on a new baggy (press speak that is) ticket The Twang seem to be everywhere at the minute with latest single 'Wide awake' getting heavy radio and television airplay and their live shows taking the plaudits. With the news spreading across the country like wild fire this tiny venue is well sold out with it has to be said quite an old crowd. The Twang themselves are a five piece with the rather unusual step of employing two lead singers. One of whom takes on the majority of the vocals and has been likened to Mike Skinner of The Streets, the other mainly takes a back seat (but mouths every word) providing when called on a more conventional vocal style. Musically there has been mention of the Mondays and Roses but to be honest any mention of the The Stone Roses must be discounted straight away but there could be some mileage in comparisons to early (but not vintage Pills & Thrills) Mondays. From tonight we see a band who do have some grooves but do also have a darker edge, we see something of Puressence (underrated post baggy moody north west guitar merchants) in the music and they definitely have that spark on stage and the chemistry between the frontmen is excellent. The only disappointment at Fibbers is the lack of connection between band and crowd, the only interaction is a fan passing a 'ciggie' to one of the singers but that's about it. We're not sure if it's cause the crowd are more interested in just been seen or the vibe from the stage just doesn't transfer across tonight but for The Twang to go on from excellent prospects to an excellent live band there has to be that connection. Verdict - Musically The Twang are onto a winner, they have a decent groove about them and have some good songs at their disposal. Tonight they look good and if they get the whole crowd into it they will move on from looking good to been great, they are at present contenders hopefully they'll go onto to become champions.


+44

Venue: Nottingham Rock City. This venue ain't changed in a dog's age and probably never will when it's aimed firmly at the Midlands rock crowd. It's sold well and truly out and outside there's cops galore, to stop touts, parents dropping their rock offspring off on double yellows and to stop the kids from wolfing down under age cans of lager! Support: There's two supports, the main The Tommy's have been the +44 European support so they know the score. First up is The Maple State from Manchester, they look like a new young band who've dropped lucky with one of the easiest jobs in music warming up a crowd who really need damping down! They are fairly low key indie rock but are pleasant enough, possibly a couple of songs too many but still give a decent account of themselves. The Tommys are a different proposition entirely, back in their hometown and looking for a real good time. They're different too in the fact they are a fully female rawk band of the high energy variety and have the crowd eating out of the palms of their hands from the off. As mentioned earlier they know how to play the crowd game too, name checking +44 at every possible junction to whip up them up and it works to pretty good effect as when they order a mosh circle it arrives post haste. The Tommys are a step up in class and give the crowd a pretty good pre +44 work out. Main Event: From the moment Mark Hoppus and new cohorts take the rock city stage it's nailed on the excitable Midlands lot are in for a great time cause +44 just fucking rock! For the record they play exclusively from the +44 album 'When your heart stops beating' (bar a wholehearted rock cover to end on). No Blink 182 songs are called for and frankly needed and that's the only mention Mark's former band will get cause this is musical progress and a fantastic band in their own right. Mark has gelled perfectly with Shane Gallagher and Craig Fairbaugh flanking him either side even stand in drummer Gil gets plenty of limelight and comedy drum solo's into the bargain, Travis is still missed especially his collection of tattoos! The band sound the business, they aren't inventing anything new but as American rock goes their debut album is up with the best the genre can offer. It gets off well with 'Baby come on' just the second song up and it sets the tone for the whole set sounding louder but still heart felt and poignant. As with the album it's a good honest mix of the thought provoking to the out and out rock, with '155' seemingly faster with bigger and brighter guitars than on record. Highlights: There ain't a dull moment, not one second when you think I wonder what time it is and when they'll be finishing, it's a classic rock gig. Mark is a quality frontman and a real entertainer, he jokes and shares the moments with the fans like when he plucks a camera from the crowd and take photo's of his band mates but jokes about having it confiscated before throwing back to the happy fan. The funniest though is when he grabs from the front row a banner that reads 'Mark is sexy', great he thinks except for the fact it's held up by two lads, all said with a huge grin on his face. It's hard to pick a favourite track on the night, but 'Chapter 13', '155' and 'Lycanthrope' all rock like beasts and 'Baby come on' is one top notch example of softer side of the band. Verdict: A awesome display of how to entertain and rock, Mark and co have stepped out of the shadows and up to the plate. With performances like this they deserve the limelight and the plaudits, quite simply, +44 rock!


 

Our viewpoint of some excellent 2006 gigs!


 

James Morrison

Venue - Sheffield Leadmill. It seems as though every gig we attend is at this legendary venue. We skip the support arriving in time for a quick beer before James Morrison hits the stage. Crowd - A big sell out and by all accounts there is also some brisk tout action early doors too. Different mix tonight; usual leadmill types mixing with an unusual amount of girls and also plenty of twentysomething couples. The gig - The sound is a bit ropey early on but that's soon in check and then its full steam ahead to an absolute blinder. Morrison is riding a tidal wave of commercial and critical success and it's well deserved too. He really has some voice especially for one of such tender years and he has quite a knack in mixing the best aspects of soul, rock and folk to produce his own James Morrison sound. Judging by the reaction of the many girls present he's something of a looker too; smouldering looks, the long rough hair and the shirt open that little bit has the wolf whistles and shouts of love! Morrison takes all this in his stride and retorts by saying he loves everyone here which goes down pretty well, he seems genuinely humbled by the success and adulation. Highlights - All the mega hits are played in quite spectacular fashion by James and his blatant muso session backing band (the lad on keys looks strangely like Wayne Hemingway the celebrity fashion designer), 'You give me something' and 'Wonderful world' are excellent. The Cat Stevens / Rod Stewart cover of 'First cut is the deepest' works suprisingly well but the encore of 'The last goodbye' and 'Call the police' is something special and will take some beating. Verdict - It's a delight to see an exceptional artist in these surroundings, the voice is magical as is his connection with the crowd, which is visible from the get go. One wag shouts mid set 'You fookin' rule' and we agree, James Morrison, you fookin' rule!


 

The Bluetones

Venue - Leeds Cockpit. Long established and well-respected venue, probably the best in Leeds in fact parked under the railway arches. Decent crowd packed in too which suggest The Bluetones are still quite a live draw. Support - Don't know, whilst they were on stage we were stuck outside trying to sort out our entry, could just about hear them but no more. We stroll in just as they depart stage left, bugger! The Bluetones - Underrated but enduring The Bluetones have been hitting the live venues up and down this nation for over a decade. The fact they can still draw a crowd is testament to the fact they are always a good watch and tonight is no exception. The band seem in good form tonight; the guitars seem pumped up and better than ever and then there is Mark! His vocals are spot on, his one finger keyboards the stuff of legends, his dancing as school disco as ever and he even gives plenty of attitude too, offering to fight some muppet who seems to want to have a pop. The Music - Well thankfully The Bluetones don't disappoint on this score, they have always had the knack to write a splendid pop tune with killer melodies and tonight a load of 'em get a damn good airing. The first couple of albums are classics but their latest self titled offering is a triumphant return to pop form and the cream of tracks from it are aired to a grand reception. 'Head on a spike' and 'Surrendered' are both quality pop tunes are sound great in the live arena. But as ever the crowd respond best to those early classics, 'Keep the home fires burning' from that difficult third album sounds nice but it has to be said that they choose some absolute solid gold stunners from their debut long player. Mark announces that they played 'Cut some rug' for the first time here and then they blast out a classic version of it, loose grooves and excellent melodies, just trademark Bluetones. 'Carn't be Trusted' makes a storming return, great song and really excellent lyrics. Highlight - Strange that it may sound to the hardcore but the highlights are still from that blinding second album, 'Return to the Last chance saloon'. Opener 'Solomon bites the worm' is a corker but the stand out track as ever has to be 'If', it's just indie guitar pop in it's truest form. Verdict - Simply stunning, whilst great chunks of the music media ignore The Bluetones their hardcore fans are treated to magical musical nights like these. Indie pop doesn't sound any sweeter than this.


The Automatic

Venue- Sheffield Leadmill. What a surprise it's back to The Leadmill, not that we ever tire of this class venue. It's rammed which is always a good sign. Support - Alterkicks. A bit low key but sound pretty pleasant and have great melodies and aren't afraid to use them. The Automatic - On a real high from a sensational year they are in great form despite Pennies somewhat bizarre inter song chats which leave more than one person in the crowd confused. The gig - The Automatic have never been shy on stage and tonight is no exception, the energy and tunes are infectious and they have a real connection with their fans. What makes The Automatic stand out from the indie crowd is the fact that all the members of the band could well be straight out of other bands! The drummer could nicely sit in The Killers, the bassist could fit into a twee indie C86 band and then Pennie could easily be exiled from a hard core punk combo! But together they gel very nicely, look and sound the bees knees. As you'd expect they play great chunks of the magic 'Not accepted anywhere' yet they still manage to slip in one new song, it carries on the good work and gets a decent reception. The great thing about The Automatic is that Pennies 'unusual' vocal style just fits the live arena far better than on record and never sounds 'shouty' like some media complaints. Highlights - Jesus, now where do we start here?! The obvious 'Monster' is once again just an absolute beast of a song. Then there's 'Raoul', 'Keep your eyes peeled' or 'You shout you shout you shout' which all really do the business. Even 'Rats' sounds pretty good, oh hell they're all great! But if there is one winner then it's a joint one, 'Recover' which just sounds fantastic all energy and grooves. Then obviously the other winner has to be that cover, 'Goldigger' is awesome. It's a bit weird, just how many times have you ever seen the singer put down his mic and start playing the flute whilst playing a rap song! Verdict - A true indie band in spirit, live they really do rock. It's all energy and blasting out monster hit's, it don't get much better than this.


The Cooper Temple Clause

Venue: Barnsley Lucorum Now it can't often be said that a brand new venue locally opens it's doors for business especially in what used to be the cultural wasteland of Barnsley. The Lucorum is best known for been the clubbers club and as such has a pretty cool reputation. The music venue itself is something a bit different as it's a glass roofed atrium in the middle of two old stone buildings which house the expensive bars! It's not massive but nice and airy but with a nice sized stage it's an intimate affair. Support: First up are upcoming local soundscapers Vib Gyor. This lot are gaining a bit of a rep even appearing on local news after a cracking Leeds Festival appearance and with performances like this we're not suprised. Like Doves and Longview there's plenty of epic sounds, good start then. It goes off the boil with This et al who frankly a bit dull. They look the part but you get the feeling they are trying just too hard. As they leave the stage to minimal applause you can see in their faces it didn't work tonight and that's a fair conclusion. The band: We got the feeling that the band were under some pressure on their last tour it been the first one in the post Didz era. Tonight however they seem relaxed by some considerable alocohol intake and it shows in a more comfortable performance, one they really get into. The Music: This is how a gig should be a good selection of new and old stuff, let's face it we all want to hear new tracks but deep down you really want to hear those old gems once more. They start with a new one ('Head' marked on the setlist) and it sounds pretty damn good too. The midset pairing of new singles 'Homosapians' and 'Damage' is somewhat of a masterstroke. The current single 'Homosapians' gets a fantastic reception and so it should, top Coopers stuff. 'Damage' makes a lot more sense live, sounding a bit disjointed on vinyl but paired here with the other new single they sound awesome. Another newie later on with Ben again taking main vocal reigns sounds like what can only be described as elctro hardcore pop rock, typical coopers never one to fit into one pidgeon hole. And now onto the fans favourite part of the evening, the oldies! We have traditional set stalwarts like 'Aim' and revitalised 'Who needs enemies', a killer keychance is all you need indeed! Then what should be to finish we have the song reworking to end all reworkings, 'Panzar Attack' was always a jaw dropping brute of a song but now it's a real monster. We dare anyone to stand still when this dance fuelled rock beast is in full flow. Highlight: The stunning return to form is a real plus and the duo of 'Homosapians' and 'Damage' sound great together. But the real highlight is the interaction between band and crowd, both truely feed off each other especially in a new venue and town never visited before. The reaction to 'Panzar Attack' so momumental that the band come back for a totally unplanned encore of 'Blind Pilots', so much of a suprise the roadies have taken down half the equipment! Verdict: Cool venue, great crowd reaction and a romping performance by the Coopers. Storming return to form and how!


Boy Kill Boy

Venue: Sheffield Leadmill It's obvious when the big cool tours roll into town the only choice is the Leadmill. This NME tour is sold out, again obviously, it should be buzzing. First up: The Automatic. It's going to be a huge year for The Automatic so it's a bit of an arse they are up at the bizarre time of ten past seven, criminally early to make way for locals The Long Blondes. It's doesn't hurt the Auto lads though as they are really up for it, get stuck in and give it some hammer. Musically it's exciting as the stage show; plenty of energy, buzzing guitars, a handsome beat or two and in Pennie the synth wizard they have a real star in the making. Hit to be 'Monster' is the real star turn, it's a beast of a record and rightly is getting the band some real exposure, Rob's vocals are pepped up by Pennie booming backing. Up there with it is still the mighty 'Recover' which is due a proper re-release some time soon, it's a champion race horse of a tune. Unfortunately the only downside of the early start is the crowd, not really as up for it as the band but there's plenty nodding away so all is not lost. Great start. Second Up: The Long Blondes The Crowd has swelled as Sheffield's very own The Long Blondes take the stage but once again there isn't any action in the crowd, far too many spectators to be honest. Not that there is much to shout about on stage neither, there's been plenty of hype around this lot but they seem to be missing that spark and for us it doesn't seem to happen. They have that arty edge, kind of like PJ Harvey mixed with Franz Ferdinand except they don't really have that stand out killer infectious tune that Franz seems to find so often. The Long Blondes just seem to be trying too hard to be cool, that they may be but the music is the loser. Headline: Boy Kill Boy Surely it isn't a great idea to start with the big hit is it? Well Boy Kill Boy do and 'Back Again' is a real statement of intent; it's one big stomping tune and infectious as hell and knocked out in some style too. So yeah obviously it ain't a bad idea after all! They really look the part too, like the proper rock stars they are becoming, great hair, stage presence and true star quality. They play for a startlingly short forty minutes but in that time they pack in all the choice cuts from debut 'Civilian' which sound big and brash here, at times on record they can sound a little tame no such problems on that score tonight. 'Suzie' the current single goes down a treat and 'Killer' lives up to its name and then some. The guitars are supercharged and vocals really hit the spot especially on the top tune 'On my own'. The crowd are a bit more up for it and there is a bit of action down the front but they deserve better with a performance like this. A stunning if short set is over far too soon and a deserving encore is not on offer but even so it's staggeringly good stuff. 


RICHARD ASHCROFT

Venue: Doncaster Dome. This is home turf for us, which is nice so we don't have to travel half way across the country to get to the gig. It ain't the best in the world as it's a converted sports hall and the sound can be dodgy but they've sorted it today and it sounds pretty good. The place is packed and the atmosphere is buzzing. Support: Tiny Dancers, missed them so no comment. Main Attraction: It's been some years since we heard 'All in the mind' and we took a trip to see Verve for two quid at the smallest Uni venue in Sheffield. Ashcroft was off his tits and was trying to push the tiles out of the suspended ceiling, other than that they were stunning. A near lifetime later Richard returns with his third solo record and a whole different outlook to his life from those dark Verve years. Those days are long gone and he looks like he's really grown into himself, happy and writing some of the best songs of his life. That's been reflected in his career too; good reviews, great record sales and a huge Manchester home coming show on the horizon to look forward to. He comes out onto the big stage to a huge ovation and looks like cool itself; the hat, shades, shaggy hair and Peoples Power T shirt. He looks pretty laid back too, ready to enjoy the evening as much as his crowd. You'd expect plenty of new stuff and he doesn't disappoint on that score with loads from his new album 'Keys to the world' but a surprise is the lack of his previous solo work, 'New York' gets a rather strange psychedelic work over but that's about it. The other rather pleasing surprise is the shedload of Verve classics aired, as early as the second song 'Sonnet' is belted out to much appreciation. Of his new work 'Sweet brother Malcolm' the weak link off 'Keys to the world' sounds much, much better off the record and 'Music is Power' plus 'Break the night with colour' sounds epic. So back to the Verve then, Ashcroft picks a stunning selection of his former bands work to play tonight, these are; 'Sonnet', the singalong 'Drugs don't work', a solo stripped down 'History', 'Lucky Man' and obviously 'Bitter sweet symphony', stuff of legends! Highlights: It is a night of highlights and the main set is pure genius but when Ashcroft reappears the boat is really pushed out. First off he plays a solo stripped back 'History' it really hits the spot, emphasising the power and beauty of this 'Northern souls' classic. Then still solo with just a DJ for company he pulls something really out of the bag and off the wall, 'Lonely Souls' a collaboration with Unkle / DJ Shadow and really shows how cool Ashcroft voice is and how adaptable too. Just to finish off his solo work on a high he bangs out 'Break the night with colour' normally it's good enough to finish off any show with but he ain't finished yet. What happens next is one of those seminal moments in rock, the definitive live version of 'Bitter Sweet Symphony'. He introduces it with the line 'We are the generation that wasn't supposed to write classics, it's all been done before' he laughs because we all know it is one of those generation defining classics. The place goes absolutely mental; monkey dancing breaks out everywhere, Ashcroft is nearly drowned out by the singing and a guy bursts out into joyous tears, it is that good! Verdict: This is one of the gigs of all time, a monumental performance yet at all times Ashcroft shows great humility thanking Pete Salisbury the drummer who has been behind him throughout his career and thanking the fans too. As he leaves the stage there is a kiss from wife Kate Radley, a kiss for a musical god. 


Kaiser Chiefs

Venue - Leeds Millennium Square. Whoever had the idea to convert this prime piece of Leeds real estate into a gig venue has to be wholly congratulated. It holds between 5,000 and 10,000 and has shallow slope giving great views for all and is neatly paved so no mud! Crowd - Sold out in double quick time, so popular in fact they are doing it all again tomorrow night. As it's a big homecoming the atmosphere is friendly, relaxed and tension free as everyone is well up for a good time. One piece of advice to the lone fool down the front with a scum shirt on, that's not the best idea in the world, he gets a fair bit of stick and deservedly so. Support one - Polysics Only in festival environment does this type of band go down this well. Tokyo's 'finest' are a comedy punk pop combo who give plenty of energy and enthusiasm to make up for their obvious lack of talent. Fortunately as everyone is up for a good time there's smiles galore and they are given a rapuous reception. But beware this joke ain't funny for long. Support Two - Graham Coxon From the ridiculous to the sublime, every time we see Coxon's boys they just get better and better and tonight is no exception. Left field indie pop has no better purveyor of guitar fused three-minute classics than Graham Coxon. There's bags of energy, some bizarre comedy banter and a set packed full of excellent tunes. As ever 'Bittersweet bundle of misery' with it's Song 2esque guitar hooks sounds masterful and 'Freakin' out' is an absolute classic despite the drummer to much amusement making an absolute balls up of it. There's plenty from recent release 'Love travels at illegal speeds' and it all sounds damn smart, possibly the pic is 'I can't look at your skin', vintage Coxon. It looks really rosy for Graham at the moment and look there's no mention of Damon, damn! Main Attraction It's been one hell of an eighteen months for Leeds favourite sons and there's an air tonight that it's going to be really, really special and the Kaisers aren't in the mood to disappoint. After all this is their city, their time and undeniable their time. The crowd are singing along to the pre gig warm up songs, the atmosphere building up to boiling point and there's one hell of a cheer as the huge velvet curtains emblazed with the KC motif open to reveal a mega light show and the eargely awaited Kaiser Chiefs. It looks like Ricky Wilson has been doing his celebrating early doors and looks somewhat worse for wear, not that this is going to get in the way of kicking out a hundred percent high octane million miles an hour performance. The only downside to note is that Ricky is somewhat erratic, that adds to the crowds enjoyment but judging by the bemused expressions by the rest of the chiefs at times they have no idea what is coming next. Ricky is quite literally all over the place in fact at one point he ends up at the back of the audience, eventually the rest of the lads see the funny side and they play an entire song with Ricky sat on a wall miles from the stage. So anyway some new songs were promised, how do they shape up? Pretty well to be fair, there's plenty of neat guitars and loads of chart friendly choruses it all adds up to plenty to look forward to on the second album. The stand out newie is called 'High Royds', which takes its title from the now defunct mental institution, it starts the encore and doesn't at all feel out of place there. But it's a big homecoming so everyone to a man, woman or child wants to sing a long with their favourite Kaiser hit and boy do they excel on that front. With a monster set list and light show to match there's some epic entertainment to be had and Ricky can't wait to get everyone involved. The crowd can't wait to do Mexican waves, sing a long on modern classic 'I predict a riot' and even do start the intro to the odd song especially plenty of na, na, na's, indie stadium cabaret anyone?! It is the Kaisers city, definitely their crowd and one hell of a homecoming, bring on tomorrow night!


Dirty Pretty Things

Venue: Sheffield Leadmill. Hooray back to Sheffield's finest and we're not alone, sold out in a matter of minutes it's flaming rammed. Support: Humanzi Now this has to be the best support gig in the world, the place is full to capacity and the crowd are already high as kites in anticipation for the Barat and co. What they need is a pretty solid rock band with that edge and in Humanzi they have indeed got that band. They look the part, dressed to kill with plenty of hair going off and sound pretty dandy too. Humanzi are currently been touted as Ireland's next great export and singer Shaun Mulrooney has a fantastic accent, when he advises the crowd to give themselves a round of applause you almost hear the 'arr go on' in that Father Ted voice! They aren't re-inventing the wheel but it's good fun and the crowd are duly warmed up. Main Attraction: Dirty Pretty Things Now there are a mere two people in the audience who aren't massive, massive Libertines fans and quite obvious that's the shadders team! No we're looking at this from a different angle, we're here to see former cooperstar and all round splitter Didz Hammond, how weird is that! So how does he look then, like the star he always was in the cooper temple clause except with a little bit more limelight, he has to fight for it but it definitely comes his way, loads more vocals to add to his bass thing expertise. In fact all of these four dirty pretty things look the part but then that was never a problem with the 'tines either, they always looked like a band full of stars but just didn't really act like it. Now the dirties look like a band alright, in fact they look like a gang and that's just what Barat missed after the 'other one' derailed big time. Musically it's fairly obvious to be fair, now that's not meant in a bad way it's just that Barat was hardly to try a new dance direction was he and the crowd love him for playing it the way they love. Now the shadders team suspect that three 'tines songs were performed but as we have no idea what they sound like we cannot confirm this! Just that the crowds reaction hits fever peak for these songs and to be fair if you didn't know any different you probably wouldn't guess, the 'tines tracks aren't exactly a million miles away from the new Dirty Pretty Things material. There's plenty of energy, sweat, buzzing guitars and Barat's cor blimey vocals but as they say in the first single 'What did you expect' nothing more, nothing less is more than enough for the Leadmill, the king is dead long live the king!


Morning Runner

Venue: Sheffield Leadmill Now this is nice, unlike most gigs that are held in the venues main room this is next door in the main bar. That's cool because it makes a fantastic little venue and due to the reduced capacity it's sold out and creates quite an atmosphere. First Support: Polytechnic Probably the most interesting thing that can be said about this band is that there guitarist looks a bit like Bryan Adams, musically they are that exciting and just to confirm we at shadders don't even like Bryan Adams! Now to be honest there isn't that much wrong with this lot it's just that they just aren't that exciting just got give you that buzz, can't see anyone actually citing this lot as their fav ever band. They are just pleasant and nothing more. Second Support: The Fontenelles Doncaster's new white hopes The Fontenelles make the short trip to the Leadmill and make a few friends en route. Sounding more Seattle than South Yorkshire this threesome ain't no monkey's but take their influences from the more melodic edge of Nirvana, an on form Lemonheads, Buffalo Tom or closer to home the guitar pop of The Wedding Present. It's a slow start tonight and it looks like they might just lose the crowd but some comedy banter and an up in the tempo gets them back on side and the tunes flow like a fresh mountain spring. So be it Doncaster, Seattle or even Sheffield good honest guitar sounds are still good honest guitar sounds and ain't that the truth. Main Attraction: Morning Runner Now this is some turnaround by Morning Runner, it's well documented around Shadders that when we first came across this lot they were in fact totally crap! But rather than dismiss them out of hand we've had spies watch them and report back good things, then we travelled to Leeds to see the excellent support to Stephen Fretwell which leads us onto tonight. The crowd is a good solid Morning Runner friendly lot and even let them off a duff start when they blow the intro to the opener, it's a great ice breaker and to be fair the only blot on the Morning Runner copy book. From the ridiculous to the sublime because the single that the tour plugs, 'Burning Benches' is amazing and the crowd really get behind it, it has real power and sounds pretty damn awesome in these quaint Leadmill surroundings. They look just the job too, looking like a proper poster indie band should and that singer seems to have plenty of female admirers with his pretty boy looks, the excellent major label financed light show adds to the excellent spectacle. Also like the trademark indie guitar band they cover some bases, 'Oceans' is delicate and demur whereas something like 'Gone up in flames' is a bit of a dance floor dance along and as up as they come. Second to 'Burning Benches' comes 'It's not like everyone's my friend' a bit of a showcase for the bands vocal talents and also features some mighty strong guitars but to be fair the name is incorrect for tonight cause after this I would suspect that everyone is indeed their friends!


Stephen Fretwell

Venue: Leeds City Varieties. This is a spin venue for me and it has to be said it is one of the coolest places to see music in the North. It's not traditionally a music venue as such but a compact theatre best known for the 'good old days' music hall shows. It has a real old skool charm and exceptional acoustics; the only problem really is it's all seats downstairs, which is a bit weird, but still strangely relaxing! The views from the balconies upstairs look excellent. It's also nice to have a social beer sat in your seat whilst being entertained but beware the bar shuts as soon as the main act starts! Support: Morning Runner Now we like to proved wrong musically and fortunately that's what has happened tonight with Morning Runner. We were very critical of them on their previous short lack lustre showing at York Fibbers, that night it was doubted that they were nothing more than a major label tax loss but not here, those criticisms and fears prove to be ungrounded. They certainly look the part, suiting the surroundings despite comments from them fearing the all seated audience and the fact they haven't played to one before. Musically it all makes more sense, they manage to sound strong and yet fragile, it's melancholic guitar rock of the finest indie order. With a performance like this it's now evident why they've made friends on their big support slots, not so much taxloss but major label earner of the future. Main Attraction: Stephen Fretwell It's been quite a time from Fretters, small town lad done real good, 'Magpie' has done some business for the boy enabling him to move up to cool venues like this and selling them out. Strangely he is still quite humble about the situation and shy too, in-between songs it's still nothing more than mumblings and the shyness is a bit weird as for a big portion of tonight's performance he's up there just lights and a guitar for company. It takes some balls and confidence in your ability to be up there and prove yourself in front of a big crowd and prove himself he does as he has the audience in his grasp all night. The reason is easy, good honest songs, Stephen makes the art of songwriting look simple, great melodies, intelligent lyrics, just back to basics. He plays the best off the understated and indeed under rated 'Magpie' along with a few new tracks which are a continuation of great songwriting, fortunately no stupid daft dance direction! He finishes off with the excellent 'New York' which confirms pure and simple that Stephen Fretwell writes and performs great songs, spot on.