Rob McCulloch - Late Room - 14.10.04

Once in a while an artist just comes up in the slipstream and passes the competition with ease. It was during this years In The City Music Conference that Rob McCulloch seemingly came out of nowhere to be one of the fringe highlights and it's perhaps to McCulloch's detriment that he simply lets the music speak for itself while lesser talented souls go into spin hyperbole.

Despite various acoustic gigs across the city since his ITC Showcase gig this intimate gig at Late Room saw him playing a rare full band set. Never one to leave his acoustic roots behind he starts off the set as an independent Northern Soul on stage with just his guitar for company. Stripped bare of the lush string arrangement "Taking Off With You" still stands tall as one of those classic songs which could quite easily sit beside one of Richard Ashcroft's compositions. McCulloch is the sort of person who isn't afraid to acknowledge his influences and he's the first to admit that the Verve, Oasis and Paul Weller are huge inspirations but there's something about his work that takes it above just being a tribute to his heroes.

When the band join him on-stage for an all too brief set things really come to life, but there's the sense that McCulloch is ever the loner with no real gang to back him up. This is definitely a benign dictatorship rather than a democracy and you feel with a great writing partnership he could soar to even greater heights. A Nick McCabe to counteract his Richard Ashcroft if you like.

Strangely enough on the upbeat tracks it's the Charlatans that loom heavier over proceedings than anyone else. "So Many Colours" sounds like Alfie's take on the North Country Boys, but it's still Charlatans all the same. With a lightly strummed acoustic flanked by the lead bluesy guitar it's both the best and worst song of McCulloch's set. "Be Free" fires on all cylinders with a dirty raw riff and "Let It Go" is one of those call to arms tracks which is set to be a future live favourite when he's playing larger venues.

It's not going to be long before McCulloch breaks through as the next export from Manchester (or Bolton if we're getting all Vernon Kay about it). With talk of him heading out to the MIDEM Music Conference in Cannes, France next January we could be faced with the realization that the rest of the world catches on to this genius talent before us. The world is McCulloch's if he wants it.

Alex McCann

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