Two members of the band provided the music for the opening slot on the bill this evening. It was an acoustic set consisting of four songs all of which were framed in a fabulous sound and warmth between the audience and their performance.
The McCabe brothers were raw, emotive and very welcome on this crisp and cold Autumnal evening. The short set was over so quickly ending with a song called 'Fever', which is presumably a taste of things to come from their forthcoming debut album. With their full complement of five members, this band have already produced a self-titled E.P. to be proud of and are worthy of bigger things to come.
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Swirling in youthful energy and enthusiastic abandonment, projecting a torrent of in-your-face yet melodic Rock, these alternative rockers with focus and new management in place are keen to promote their forthcoming third studio album. Current single 'The Bells! The Bells!' was given an airing along with 'Hostage' as examples of their new exciting material, whilst still making way for fierce renditions of their familiar songs like 'Do You Get What You Pray For?' and 'Paradox On Earth'.
The latter of these closed their whirlwind set. An earlier moment worthy of mention included lead vocalist and guitarist Steven Battelle moving from the main stage to be closer to the front row as he frantically played a guitar solo for what seemed like a stunned audience. Despite releasing an excellent album in the shape of 'I'm A UFO In This City' last year, they aren't as well known as perhaps they should be.
Celebrating their 10th anniversary of the debut album 'Permission To Land' by playing each track in order as it was on the album, was always going to please their fan-base. With songs that include 'I Believe In A Thing Called Love', 'Growing On Me' and 'Get Your Hands Off My Woman', the set-list was always going to glow in the dark if the right elements were in place.
With that familiar sense of anticipation building within the venue before the entrance of the band, a brand new song called 'Second Fiddle' played over the speakers signalling The Darkness were ready to accost the stage. They arrived one by one to a soft white lit background which set off their silhouettes dramatically.
After the atmospheric introduction and the roar of the crowd, the first part of their set kicked off with 'Makin' Out' followed by 'She's Just A Girl Eddie'. Unfortunately the sound for the lead vocals was poor but the band continued with vigour regardless for those opening two songs. With the mix adjusted and the balance significantly better, the rest of the set Rocked, entertained and was a resounding treat.
'Is It Just Me?' provided one of many highlights along with the inclusion of 'Curse Of The Tollund Man' which was originally a b-side on their 'Love Is Only A Feeling' single.
Notable moments during the entire set this evening included all males adopting the name Michael whenever communications were opened up between Justin Hawkins and the audience, and a security man standing in front of the stage was accidentally strangled by a microphone cable. Incidentally, he too was called Michael.
The second part of the set was a run through of their debut album with Hawkins going for a wander during 'Love On The Rocks With No Ice', and good performances of those big songs to keep us all happy. Throughout the show, the audience was wishing to hear the 'Christmas song' which Hawkins lapped up in his inevitable style with copious amounts of personality. Would they play it though?
Once 'Holding My Own' was finished and the band had left the stage, the crowd held out for an encore. The encore came in the shape of 'Christmas Time (Don't Let The Bells End)' complete with a Festive season-loving fellow dressed as Santa being plucked from the onlookers in the audience to join them on stage.
I'm not entirely sure in my usual unassuming way whether Hawkins was referring to me personally or another individual who was due to review this show, but towards the end of the set he was hoping to hear the verdict of their performance from a specific reviewer.
If I'd possessed the metallic balls and the voice to scream out in response to his public enquiry, I might have said something along the lines of "the show is rather good, thank you." Maybe that is too reserved and somewhat stereotypical of the average British gentleman? Whatever the case, this was an excellent event with all three bands offering a top quality exhibition with their own unique brand of delivery.
Verdict: If you were looking for soulful and gritty, then The River 68's were the band for you. Maybe you were hoping for energy-driven melodic alternative rock with bite and a hunger to make an impact? LostAlone would have provided that in abundance during their 30 minute onslaught; or perhaps an established Rock act which possess a confident swagger with several classic songs to assist you in shaking your proverbial would have satisfied that craving? The Darkness ticks that box with consummate ease.
To summarise, a great night was had by all and despite the venue being located so far north in Scotland, I would like to think that these bands will return for more of the same in the future.
Many thanks to James Smith who provided an extra pair of eyes during the show; and many thanks to Danielle Milne for allowing a photo to be taken of the set-list.