16 November 2023 (gig)
20 November 2023
Who saw some of the band’s early gigs touring their classic debut album really must have thought that they would be the next big thing (alla Coldplay). A young, musically cohesive unit, great songs, a deep, melancholic and very intense frontman (Jack Steadman), a really good live band, they seemed to have it all. But the boys didn’t want to go down that line and have indeed for whatever reason, been absolutely determined to remain in indie band status. Interesting, inventive yet rather self indulgent albums have followed managing to keep their name in the underlying credits but not quite in flashing neon. Some energy and intent was lost along the way perhaps such that the band took a hiatus in 2016, but they did reform in 2019 and have seemingly got their groove and mojo back. Indeed this year’s new album, ‘My Big Day’ released in October, is a really good record, chockablock with great songs and interesting lyrics; lots of mantra type vocal hooks too that can appeal to the masses.
Jack (lead vocals and guitar), Jamie MacColl (son of The Bible’s Neil, on guitar), Ed Nash (bass) and Suren de Suram (drums) are back in Europe on tour, and tonight in the Alcatraz Club in Milan.
I was here for The Darkness gig two nights ago where at least 10 times the number of people were gathered. Thankfully they have set up the small stage but it’s still a pretty select mainly 20/30 year old crowd present. It says a lot for the popularity state of indie bands in Italy at least (minimal) and how music streaming platforms, now the main way we access music, does not really help in cultivating a proper fan base. Maybe it’s because it’s Thursday.
Still this does not seem to make any difference to the band who take the stage full of verve and positivity. With the addition of backing singer Olivia and poly instrumentalist Nathan they launch into the new album’s opening track “Just A Little More Time” which sets the tone for groove filled danceable songs that is their forte. Up next is “ I Want To Be Your Only Pet” which is surely up there for single of the year with its delirious lyrics and delivery.
Jack seems to be happy, smiling and conversing with the crowd, very appreciative that for this first show in many years in Milan, people, be it a few hundred have shown up, in good voice singing along to every song. It feels like the band want no more than to be loved by few yet devoted fans. This is their present day dimension, able to have Damon Albarn and Charla Kahn guesting on their albums and to play their songs in cities all over the world is still pretty wonderful yet without being at the sharp end of social media or critical attention.
They are dressed in slacks and shirts and comfortable shoes as if to accentuate the absence of hipdom, a very simple multicoloured cloth backdrop with a set of big, helium filled blow up gold letters saying “My Big Day” up above them. I’ve seen more exotic decorations at kids birthday parties.
Lots of songs from the new album but as Jack says, it being so long, their absence from Milan, that they feel it a duty to play at least one track from each of their albums so tonight, a tour debut of “Flaws” played with Jack on acoustic guitar singing along with Olivia is added to the setlist.
The crowd really start to get involved in the second half of the show with “Evening/Morning”, “Meditate” and “Luna” being especially pleasing. All the band are smiling at this stage, enjoying the moment. There are very few of the highly strung, energised collective band ensembles that really grabbed me in those early gigs nowadays but they are still very much a unit and they close with the ever perfect “Always Like This”.
As the tour builds with the Uk and American gigs up ahead they may well get more edgy to deal with the masses but tonight’s intimate gig, more hot chocolate than vodka and red bull was fun and a gas.
Just a Little More Time
I Want to Be Your Only Pet
My Big Day
Lights Out, Words Gone
Everything Else Has Gone Wrong
Eat, Sleep, Wake (Nothing but You)
How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep
Flaws Tour debut
Turn the World On
Always Like This