Arrived to catch the last couple of songs from Sir Yes Sir. Unfair to pass judgement based on two songs but the three piece are clearly in thrall of angular US experimental indie and need a bit of work to get their own identity/sound sorted out. Next up was Airship. Following the under-rehearsed feel of Sir Yes Sir, Airship sounded in a different world: slick, loud and heavy. But for me it quickly paled. They had a partisan crowd in enjoying the set but I felt it was would-be arena-indie that I could do without. Started to miss Sir Yes Sir - especially during the song about a "World Renaissance Smile". Eh?
Third on the unbelievably-good-value bill was Ten Bears. 'Hotly-tipped' is a torpedo that has sunk many a band. Ten Bears definitely have something about them and might survive the label. The five-piece play an off-kilter guitar pop with plenty of hooks and quirks without shouting look at us. Some of the outfits (checked shirt, trucker's cap, embroidered shirt) hint at 'country' but this is misleading: I thought they were somewhere between the tuneful end of Pavement and the noisy end of Teenage Fanclub. Not completely won over on first meeting but the wig outs towards the end of the set and the astonishing drumming throughout will make me come back for more. They have a single 'Dirt on the Radio' available on iTunes.
So eventually Brakes. Three of the band arrived - but where was lead singer Eamon? Has he become an indie-diva expecting others to set up his equipment and then prepare an entrance for him? No he's just been waiting off stage wearing a space suit.Well after my concerns about tonight and a possible new direction, happy to report it's business as usual for Brakes. They may not have played together for four months (so we were told) but as usual the performance was high energy and tightly drilled. And when they did make a mistake, they didn't take it too seriously. You could really sense their enjoyment at playing and performing together.
Only four new songs in the set (new album "Touchdown" due in April) and 'Crystal Tunings' (called 'Oh! Forever' on the set-list) is a slight aberration but a good one and in the context of the rest of the set not too much of an aberration. 'Why Tell The Truth...' is about when Lloyds charged Eamon £75 for going overdrawn by £4 - not quite a credit crunch anthem then but a good dig at the banking system. Short songs like 'Comma Comma Comma Full Stop' and 'Cheney' (with new 'goodbye' ending) were all played twice. Here's the set list - kindly annotated by Alex the drummer to the correct running order (that's drummers for you): 'Spring Chicken' came before 'Cease and Desist' and 'Ring a Ding Ding' was not played (why not?!).
So my misgivings were misplaced - Brakes continue to delight live. Rest of this tour here and they are back on the road in April including a Manchester date at Ruby Lounge on 13 April (Ms N's birthday no less).