The Trades Club - Hebden Bridge

Saturday 3 October 2009

Martin nand JoshHaving played a number of dates a few months back following the release of the Kingdom of Noise album, the Ace led version of the band returned for a few more gigs, including their first in London a few days previously: reports from the metropolis had been favourable. I had expected that, given they had had more time to get used to each other. What I hadn't expected was the significant alterations to the set list.

A couple of the new songs had gone, as had a couple of older pieces, and a few vintage classics were back.

To commemorate these changes, Ace senior had a sharp new haircut, and Ace junior a replacement instrument in the shape of a cherry red Epiphone. Is he changing his guitar for every tour?

The band's first time at the Trades Club since 2004, the crowd was a bit smaller than previous visits, but still a respectable turnout. The Price remains the set opener, impressively tight and together, and after a few political words, it was straight into Mad on Her, a big meaty sound coming from the two guitars and Phil's keyboards. So far, so good, and just like the dates from earlier this year.

We were then treated to C'mon, a piece I wouldn't have thought would have been suited to this line up, but that just goes to show how much I know. With vocals handled by Josh and Phil, James Beck didn't just clone the opening riff, but added his own mark to it; the whole piece had more swing and syncopation, very much helped by Rene's drumming. There was plenty of space for the solos, and I was especially impressed by Martin's bass playing, which shows some lighter, melodic touches. James' solo was very much his own, as it should be.

Speak again demonstrated Martin's bass playing, and Russian Roulette, a very strong song, is enjoyable and imaginative, but for me there is still something missing when compared to the studio version.

Spunk Rock. What? Who saw this coming? Perhaps the ultimate Manband psychedelic jamming piece, I wasn't expecting this, and given the band's move towards shorter pieces, I didn't expect it to work. Wrong again. The clean tone of James' Strat took the lead riff, again with some subtle tweaking, this was a worthy version of an old favourite. Phil's solo was a highlight, and James wasn't fazed by having to swap to his Tele half way through. Powerful stuff, it got a hugely enthusiastic reception.

Dream Away featured a smooth, controlled solo from James, though I suspect the song isn't really suited to his style of playing; Steal the World was twangy and well performed, and X-Ray Eyes was solid.

The main set closed with MACBFGU, and again it's hard not to be surprised - this isn't a song that should fit Rene's drumming style, but he produced the power that makes it work without seeming to over exert himself. Very good indeed.

The first encore, and yet another surprise - Bananas, with James taking part of the lead vocals. The guitar playing seemed slighly tentative, but actually it reflected the more relaxed and laid back style which the original studio version possessed. It was very good, so good that there was even a small outbreak of non-governmental sponsored dancing.

Romain shuffled on and off, and Conflict of Interest was a more than satisfying endpiece, featuring some terrific synth from Phil.

I dare say there will be some who don't like the idea of this line up playing what are seen as Micky Jones led older classics, and that's a shame. The band clearly aren't just reproducing these old songs, they are making a point of adding to them and putting their own imprint on them. Just as previous live versions of C'mon travelled a long way from the studio original, this band are taking it to new and different places. And a very enjoyable journey it is too.


There are a few pics from this gig in the Gallery.

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