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Martin Rossiter - Deaf Institute Manchester - 13.5.11

Times were very different then. Whereas now it's part of that journey to own a Smiths record by the age of 13, then we seem to recall was one of Morrissey's periods of war with the NME. But out of the oikish Britpop period came 2 different bands, both influenced by the Mozfather, who wore intelligence on their sleeves and were outspoken. One of those bands were Echobelly. The other were Gene. Both couldn't have been further away from the likes of Northern Uproar, Menswear, Cast et all.

Fast forward to 2011 and Gene's frontman Martin Rossiter is doing his first ever solo tour. It's just a small affair with a handful of dates in Brighton, London, Manchester and Glasgow and yet it appears time hasn't moved on. For all intents and purposes Brother could be the new Northern Uproar or they could be Oasis... and there's a slew of guitar bands who do inoffensive guitar pop.

Looking around at the audience it's clear that I've either aged very well or much of the audience first time round was older than I recall. Rossiter on the other hand has hardly aged a day. Foppish suit and trainer combo still in place, with only a pianist to accompany him all eyes on Rossiter himself with no band to hide behind him. It works purely because vocally there's a chance to shine away from Mason's guitar chops and a beating rhythm section and secondly because with sparse production you know the songs really are years of work built towards this one tour.

An elongated intro built up the anticipation until his arrival of Martin midway through "Three Points On A Compass". A song that appears to be about Rossiter's relationship with his father with lines like "You broke our home and I will never forgive all the things you did" and "The only think i got from you was my name". It's emotive and up there with the best of Gene's ballads. "Where There Are Pixels" follows a similar path, slightly darker musically with a melodica solo breaking it up a little. For many though the only familiar song of the new material is "Drop Anchor", a lovelorn plea of a song.

Of all the cover's you'd expect Prince "If I Was Your Girlfriend" probably isn't one of them. It work's and if he wouldn't have announced it as a cover many would have gone home expecting it to be a Rossiteroriginal.

Of course the old Gene material isn't overlooked with "Olympian", "You'll Never Walk Again / I Can't Help Myself" and somewhat bizarrely "Fill Her Up", a song which for us personally was one of the weaker Gene songs and considering the strength of the back-catalogue there were so many better options.

With one sell out tour behind there's option to grow and the songs are strong enough to stand with their piano / vocals combo, but would sound beautiful with a string quartet behind them. One can only hope, but in 2011 with Rossiter back, lyricists certainly need to up their game

Alex McCann

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