Hurts - Manchester Academy 1 - 8.2.11

On the morning of their biggest homecoming show to date Theo Hutchcraft announced that the band's debut album "Happiness" has passed the 500,000 sales mark. Proof if ever there was that Hurts have simply become an enormo pop band for the people as well as being critics faves in the polls. Overseas of course Hurts are even bigger and are regular guests on exports of Pop Idol / X Factor contests, whereas backhome in blighty we have to put up with the likes of Shane Ward. The songs so good that we almost can forget that David Sneddon co-wrote some of them.....

After a set from the hotly tipped Claire Maguire, who despite doing a fine line in synth pop we still can't get out of our head the idea that she really could be called Claire Sweeney. Hurts take to the stage with a light show and backdrop that suggests theatre's are beckoning soon. On our 2 Hurts shows so far, our first was a short instore set on the release of their album 5 months ago, they've appeared a band too grandiose for their settings. It's clear that soon they will be playing the likes of the Apollo or the Bridgewater Hall both of which are more fitting than the beer and students confines of Academy 1. The audience a mix of overtly camp men who we're more than likely on board on the Daggers days, rough blokes dragged along by their girlfriends for an early valentines night out and indie kids who don't normally like pop music shows the bands broad appeal.

More so than ever on the big stage, Hurts conform to the pop duo rules of the performer and the silent type. Its been there from Sparks through to the Pet Shop Boys. Hutchcraft's restrained, but elegant performance counterbalanced by synth player Adam Anderson who's not exactly hidden in the shadows, but not forthcoming either. Playing through pretty much the entirety of the album from what my companion describes as the Sinead O'Connor moments (Blood, Tears and Gold) to the hi-energy moments on "Sunday" and the set closer "Better Than Love". Revelation of the night was the download only "Happiness" which we've never heard before recorded despite it being it released last August - it's dark electro gospel - Heaven 17 with a full on choir.... and in opinion the best song Hurts have in their arsenal by far. Yes, even better than "Wonderful Life" and "Stay" which are the sort of epic songs you imagine lasting way beyond Hurts lifetime.

With just one album to date the obligatory cover is the much touted "Confide In Me" by Kylie. If anything though it's the one moment where Hurts are running in autopilot and you'd have loved them to picksomething new for the tour, even if it was a different Kylie cover.

As they keep saying tonight - these songs were written in bedsits in Rusholme and Longsight - and you hope they can keep the momentum up for album number 2, which will essentially have been written backstage at the Greek Pop Idol or on tour with Scissor Sisters. Hurts are a band destined to fill the big stage, but personally I hope the 2nd album takes "Sunday" and "Happiness" as a blueprint for a more uptempo beast

Alex McCann

*** Read the Hurts review from HMV Manchester by clicking here ***

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