Razorlight / The Subways - Manchester Apollo - 13.3.05
Tonight's gig (the first of two sold out dates at the Apollo) had been rescheduled from February when Razorlight's frontman Johnny Borrell experienced severe throat problems on an American tour.
The last time I saw The Subways was in the new bands tent at the Carling Leeds Festival. The three piece rock combo have improved considerably since then. They've gained so much confidence and are beginning to develop their own inimitable sound. Traces of Nirvana and bands influenced by the Seattle legends (Von Bondies / The Vines) still remain, but these influences don't overshadow their original material. Ferocious and on occasion punky, the Subways play to each other like Jack and Meg White Stripe, but with far more charisma and intensity. The striking female bass player Charlotte is not just a pretty face, her playing adds a touch of funk to the rock dynamics. Tracks off their much anticipated debut album are played with the skill you'd associate with much more experienced bands. The Subways are not wasting the opportunity of playing to their biggest crowd to date. For just half an hour these three plucky teenagers justify the praise and hype which has elevated them from unsigned band at Glastonbury to the brightest new act of 2005. By the time they let rip on the last song of the evening, the new single "Oh Yeah", they've effortlessly won over the crowd.
Since witnessing an early appearance from Razorlight on Suede's farewell tour i've kept an eye on Johnny Borrell's boys. Like the Subways, I also caught Razorlight's performance at Leeds which for them was disappointing. My spirits were lifted when the band opened up with a storming performance for the Manics last December. With tales of drug intake and a fondness for the seedier side of life, Borrel looks remarkably healthy, trim and has an almost athletic build. His voice has returned to it's former glory, like a butcher version of Jarvis Cocker (Ed: erm, not sure whether I see this) and his bandmates who often get criminally overlooked are disciplined, tight and all compliment each others playing rather than competing for the spotlight.
The enormously pleasurable "Vice" sees JB spluttering out the lyrics like a man possessed with desire as the guitars, drums and bass thrash about in orchestrated confusion. Eyes are fixed on the enigmatic singer as he climbs the speaker stack for the title track off the debut album, "Up All Night". He's living the dream, loving every minute of his rock god status and who can blame him. There's a tender moment of comradeship a little later on when he gazes up to the drummer for a touching duet. "Keep The Right Profile" is another nifty three minute rock work out, this time with ska touches, but the screams are heard the loudest when Johnny takes his shirt off during the most celebrated song "Golden Touch".
A piano is wheeled out for a brand new single "Somewhere Else", a change of pace for sure but you can't deny on first listen it's a great song. A sentiment which is shared with the fans.
You don't have to be a genius to work out what song Razorlight will finish with. After a solo performance, armed with just an electric guitar, the rest of the band rejoin their leader for "Stumble And Fall". Razorlight shone brightly tonight, let's hope it's a taste of what's to come when their second album sees the light of day.
Words: Nicholas Paul Godkin
Photos: Karen McBride www.karenmcbride.com
Razorlight / Yeti / The Black Velvets - Manchester Apollo - 14.3.04
Earnest Ocean Colour Scene tinged by the searing instrumentals and occasional vocals of AC/DC style of scouse group The Black Velvets, shook the audience into an attentive state with their lively set and slightly cheeky between track rapport. They hit a rasping tempo early on and kept it going throughout a well received and promising performance, until current single “3345” picked up the pace in a nostalgic blast about? Well a pub actually, or more generally somewhere you feel welcome, and this for many of the early gatherers was attained by watching a welcoming and intriguing set by The Black Velvets.
The cowboy hat clad front man of Yeti; John Halsall looked a suave picture of pride as he and his four troubadours took off like…?... well the phase of sporting a Toni & Guy haircut at a Razorlight gig is probably the most apt way of putting it. This was down to the shrewd utilization early on of tracks from their forthcoming AA sided single; ‘Never Lose Your Sense Of Wonder’ and Working For The Industry'. The former contained the crisp guitars and endearing vocals of tonight's headliners and a splash of Suede, ensuring that fans were won over from the outset.
The brief foray into the exciting world of the Londoners that form Yeti took us down a summery road that skirted with cosmic and folk rock and at times, was akin to The Coral exorcising the spirit of The Byrds. Yeti will make an imprint in this fickle music industry of ours and they have more than enough potential to make it a lasting one.
A Seiko style marathon clock countdown to the appearance of the Johnny Borrell fronted rasping rockers that are Razorlight and a New Years Eve style countdown ensued, as the excitement hit fever pitch. Maybe this was due to the promise of a glimpse of a bold new sound that the guys have been shooting the breeze about pre tour, to anyone who would listen? The masses were happy to wait for this though as ‘Rip It Up’ a rock from debut album; ‘Up All Night’ was delivered with renewed vigour and vocal clarity. It seemed as though the enforced break that had resulted in the initial tour being cancelled had done Mr. Borrell a deal of good.
The old favourites of ‘Vice’ and ‘Golden Touch’ were thrown in early into a luke warm broth that never really reached boiling point. Then came the moment many had been waiting for, when Borrell who seemed at home on a stage decorated as though a Pinter play was about to take place, theatrically announced that we were to be treated to a new song, so I braced myself ready to follow this bold new direction. The song entitled ‘Somewhere Else’ started off well with a commanding keyboard element that raced alongside the cutting guitar intro, giving off a vibrant Paul Weller mingled with Van Morrison feel. However, as the repetitive chorus and well utilized guitar riffs kicked in, it became apparent that this new sound was akin to me sticking a Sex Pistols badge on my T-shirt and telling people that I am going for a bold new look this summer. The appetite of the fans for more of the same with a keyboard kick seems to know no satiety judging by the enthusiastic reaction to the number.
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