23 November 2007 (gig)
25 November 2007
When you arrive at a church twenty minutes later than planned to be told you've just missed a surprise special guest performance from Bono and The Edge, its easy to assume the gods are not out in your favour. But the surreality of sitting in the Union Chapel, with its Victorian gothic high ceiling, stained glass window, and deep and wonderful acoustics, thoughts of U2 are replaced by an excitement of what's to come rather than what may have been. Jo Whiley, the curator and host of the Little Noise, Mencap acoustic series of gigs, immediately appeared to introduce Liam, from The Courteeners. Without his three band mates, he jovially performed their jangly likeable indie pop, alone, but with the crowd fully with him. He gave a taster as to why Whiley is so impressed with the Manchester act. The memorable single Acrylic, and follow up, slated for the new year, What Took You So Long, were notable highlights. Following Bono and The Edge, and tuning his guitar before beginning his set, didn't knock him off his stride.
Next up, We Are Scientists, were seated and quirky, with an effortless witty interplay between the ladies favourite, vocalist Keith Murray, and bassist Chris Cain. They jovially berated each other throughout a stripped down, hugely entertaining set. During Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt, Cain cheekily answered his ringing mobile, telling the caller of his U2 experience back stage. Staged managed but perfectly executed, with the audience willingly allowing themselves to fall for the gag, they seamlessly slipped back into the song. They treated all to tracks from their forthcoming album, due out in March 2008, as well as fans favourites Its A Hit and The Great Escape. The gods were out in favour after all......Bono who?
And finally, the mighty Biffy Clyro. The Scottish three piece performed a truly stunning set, with immense feeling that left me (and all) spellbound in their musical mastery. Their hybrid of influences, from prog rock to US West Coast, to heavy guitars, using an intricate dynamic from loud to quiet, and all three intertwining beautiful harmonies and melodies, has deservedly built up a powerful following. The acoustic versions highlighted their sensitivity, lead with Simon Neil's warm and tender voice, most notably on the breathtaking Machines, which got the crowd singing along with pure joy, and covering the backing parts too. The hauntingly beautiful As Dust Dances, Folding Stars, and the driving Conversation Is, convinced me that their recent album, Puzzle, is a must have. Neil jokingly lamented that the biggest cheer was reserved for their cover of Rihanna's irresistable summer smash, Umbrella. When he broke the news that they had to cut their set short, "God is only allowing us to do two more songs", the crowd booed. "You can't boo god." He replied, as he unassumingly topped even We Are Scientists for best comedy moment of the night.
Any lesser acts would have made the evening most memorable for missing the surprise special guests. But the calibre of the line up and performances will have me reflect on a night when We Are Scientists shot towards the top end of my preference table, and when I fell completely under the spell of Biffy Clyro.
Rob Barnett, Music News