The Rifles / Milburn / The Upper Room - Manchester Roadhouse - 08.03.2006

A relaxing, yet feeling packed set is being delivered by the breezy Brighton band, The Upper Room. Singer, Alex Miller displays searching indie-soulfulness and throws his post-mod voice clearly around a swelling crowd to promote the bruising lyrics in ‘All Over This Town’. It is no surprise that they busted the top 40 with this effort recently, as the number gains even more striking sincerity in a live setting, with the lamenting of small town attitudes being something that many people could connect with. ‘Black & White’ finishes off a brisk set and is packed poetic honesty and sweeping guitar hooks, ensuring that The Upper Room will be visited again by those with an eye for a searching melody.

That hype machine must need re-oiling soon having been at work once again, ensuring that the vast majority of the sold out crowd are like Big Brother fans at eviction time for the arrival of Sheffield’s latest indie darlings, Milburn. The set starts off with some swirling power-skiffle, before the sound evens out out into a post-mod rock out that is best encapsulated in ‘Send In The Boys’ and ‘Storm In A Teacup’. These two numbers shake hands with another band from Sheffield whom we have heard a great deal about of late. The exuberance of one member of the crowd who clambers on overhead pipe and makes several trips to the stage, is too much for the security and he is unceremoniously escorted from the venue, despite the mid-song (and in tune!) cry of “leave him alone” from front man Joe Carnall. Milburn’s swaggering musical style and friendly crowd banter certainly made for a carefree forty minutes.

It took a little time for Londoners, The Rifles to get used to the fact that their sold out gig is now around two thirds full, but the scattered crowd soon hook up to the sound that pivots between Hard-Fi and The Jam. Latest single, ‘Repeated Offender’ and previous single ‘Local Boy’, stand out for their hard hitting urbane nature and has those with a penchant for raw, retro sounds fully satisfied. Lead man, Joel Stoker does his utmost to resurrect the lively spirit and his gritty vocal assault makes the punk shaded ‘Fat Cat’, a gripping spectacle to witness. The Rifles have the sound and lyrical skill that everyone hoped The Ordinary Boys would have achieved, so let’s just hope that Joel manages to avoid the lure of Big Brother and concentrates on building from their already punchy and provocative base.

Words: David Adair
Upper Room Photo: Karen McBride

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