At NME’s ‘God Like Genius’ of 2013, Johnny Marr, played to a tiny 1,100 capacity crowd at Leeds Met Union last week. The expected more mature audience crowded in, adorned in their Smiths and Morrissey t-shirts, despite the distinct lack of the latter anywhere on the bill.
Opening number, the anthemic ‘Upstarts’ – the first track from his debut solo album ‘The Messenger’, which was released in February this year – was well received. This was followed by The Smiths ‘Panic’ which was sung in a Morrisey-esque fashion raising the excitement in the atmosphere significantly.
The show heard Marr play the likes of ‘Generate Generate’ and other tracks from his solo album and, whilst sounding good and the crowd still going for it, there was a notable difference in reception between his material and that of The Smiths. Despite this, Marr took it in good humour, and said he didn’t mind as “everyone’s here together”. Speaking to the crowd between songs, there was no air of arrogance about him, but what seemed like a genuine enjoyable experience despite playing songs that are over 20 years old. ‘How soon is now’ was mesmerizing. The distinctive guitar part left us in anticipation for the encore. Returning with ‘Please Please Please, Let Me Get What I Want’ and ‘There is a Light’, he really treated the crowd. Despite feeling like somewhat of a Smiths tribute, Marr delivered a great performance, although it may have been nice to hear more of ‘The Messenger’ himself.
Taking the stage at the recently opened Belgrave Music Hall are all female Manchester quartet PINS, who have been making waves in the blogosphere recently with debut album Girls Like Us. Guitar feedback settles into a pounding drum beat and the band launch straight into ‘Lost Lost Lost’. A blistering start; this is followed by lead singer, Faith Holgate, yelling “We’ll take things a bit slower now!” As the band launch into last year’s mammoth track ‘Eleventh Hour’ – all rolling drums and reverberating harmonies – it becomes clear that we have wildly different views on song tempo. PINS race through their debut record, all reverb, delay and a hell of a lot of noise. While there has been a tendency to group the band’s sound alongside that of Warpaint, Hole and The Jesus and Mary Chain, they retain a certain pop sensibility which comes across most obviously in set highlight ‘Get With Me’. Something else is thrown into the mix– a desert blues influenced riff here, a Joy Division-esque twang there – which has the sizeable crowd at the Belgrave bopping along accordingly. The short, punchy tunes on show tonight give a real sense of urgency, with songs rarely hitting the three minute mark and I end the night more breathless than the band themselves. The intimate setting proves perfect, despite the fact the Belgrave’s stairwell smelt a bit like a chippy (no bad thing in my eyes – it’s a fantastic venue). The visceral energy with which the band began never really subsides; this is also why the gig is such a success. PINS are a band who – no matter how good they sound on record – will always reach their full potential in a live environment. Very impressive stuff from the Mancunians.
Aluna Francis, dressed in a trendier version of a Sporty Spice get up, sashays and grooves out onto centre stage at The Cockpit, leading the quadruplet live band into a vibrant and vivacious set. AlunaGeorge’s catchy 90s feel resonates in their set list but it also moves from the bouncy heated funk to a moodier and mellow feel throughout the night. Where songs such as their cover of ‘This Is How We Do It’ and ‘Best Be Believing’ show off the fresh and bold side of the band, others show maturity and sincere emotion.
‘Your Drums, Your Love’ zones out to show impressive percussion and instrumentals from George, while obvious crowd pleasers such as ‘You Know You Like It’ and ‘Catching Flies’ are full of attitude and show off Aluna’s ability to hold her voice and writhe around the stage. The crowd dutifully bounces and chants along to the sugary vocal, Aluna’s presence enticing as she takes the focus from anything else around her.
A short encore teases the crowd enough to get the band back on stage to cheers aplenty, when they bang out their Disclosure collaboration ‘White Noise’ and ‘Kaleidoscope Love’. AlunaGeorge have been nominated for the 2013 BRIT Award of Critics’ Choice and the BBC Sound of 2013 Poll in which they placed second and after this performance it’s not hard to see why. There is something niche yet current about the vibe of this somewhat unlikely duo and there is a fun and cool presence about everything they put out to the public, which is received with open arms by fans and critics alike.