Tuesday 7 December 2010

The View, The Venue, Derby

My last gig before Christmas and at the excellent Venue in Derby again. Three bands tonight. First up, Control. Who from their accent must have come down from Scotland with The View. They’re ok, although their lead singer seems to have a bit of a chip on his shoulder and seems a bit miffed about the lack of feedback from the small crowd. It’s early and they’re third band on the bill, what does he expect. Their indie-verging-on-punk sound is good though and their cover of ‘20th Century Boy’ is more than competent.

‘Love In The Asylum’ was, as I recall, a poem by Dylan Thomas. Whether this has any bearing on the name of the next band I have no idea but I think we can safely say it hasn’t influenced their sound. They too are good and better than Control, more accessible too. Almost at once the crowd seems into them, as everyone mutters ‘Kings of Leon clones’. Yep there’s a definite resemblance but on closer listen it’s not their actual sound, just Dan Dunne’s vocals. He could easily pass himself off as Caleb Fallowill in a very dark room, there is no physical resemblance. Their music though makes for a pleasant half hour.

After they’ve finished and the roadies have done their stuff, I check my watch and it’s already 9.45. Oh dear. Now we're worried. The later The View come on the drunker Kyle Falconer is likely to be. Then we watch the roadies load up the stage up with alcohol. Not looking good.

When they appear, the band are upright and looking 'up for it' in a sober looking sort of way. As they open with the ska-punk of ‘Wasteland’ they’re sounding good too. After which they launch in to what appears to be a love song, a new track called ‘Grace’ I believe. Blimey, sober times indeed.

The ante is upped by the excellent ‘5 Rebeccas’ with the band exhibiting far more energy than a strangely restrained crowd and it takes the following ‘Wasted Little DJs’ to get the audience fired up. The fire though soon goes out and newbie ‘Tragic Magic’ is met with muted applause and ‘Realisation’ off ‘Which Bitch?’ doesn’t seem to get any recognition at all.

Kyle and Kieren have by now swapped places and instruments, staying that way for ‘One Off Pretender’, played for the first time on this tour, and then sharing vocals on the oddly popular ‘Skag Trendy’.

The crowd meanwhile remain very subdued, not much dancing, hardly any beer throwing and certainly no crowd surfing. Has the View’s bubble burst or is it just a poor crowd? The band perhaps don’t help by playing no less than six new numbers and the unfamiliar songs stall the momentum when it does threaten to get going. If that’s the reason, it would be a shame, because I for one like hearing bands play new material and the View’s new stuff seems to be pretty inspired, decent songs with big choruses. In fact I would take them in preference to some of their odder older moments.

The band themselves seem to have moved on a touch. They are a tighter unit tonight, so much less ramshackle than of old. More mature perhaps. You simply don't feel it's going to fall apart any second. Perhaps that’s to the detriment... They’re note perfect most of the time and what’s this? Keyboards? When did that happen? And they’re definitely going a bit soft, ‘this is another one about a girl’ I think he tells us, although translation from Scottish to English often isn’t easy, and I think it’s called ‘Girl’. So it does what it says on the tin.

As Kyle announces that their new album is due in March, he doesn’t seem happy with the crowd, assuming he can see them through his fringe. He attempts to get a bit of banter going but it doesn't happen. This isn’t a banter friendly crowd, it's not really an anything crowd but also we can't decipher his Dundee accent. In fact we can barely catch more than a word at a time. So it doesn't happen. He's not happy about that. Cue a very inappropriate new song called 'Happy'. Which rather ironically turns out to be an infectious, corker of a track.

The crowd are so muted you forgot what is still to come and when ‘Superstar Tradesman’ arrives it’s almost a shock and it finally stokes the crowd a bit.

Then they’re bravely straight into a couple more new tracks. Although one of them, ‘Sunday’, is available for nothing from their website and it sounds excellent live. Then perhaps to emphasize their new found maturity Kyle reaches for a mug rather than a bottle. A mug? Get that. It could be coffee, although I suppose just as easily it could be full of a spirit. Who knows? Either way he’s still not enamoured with one of the least appreciative crowds I’ve seen in some time.

Despite finishing off with a storming ‘Shock Horror’ and the brief ‘Typical Time’, the band seem to have no intention of returning for an encore.

Finally there are cries of 'The View, The View, The View are on fire' but it’s too late. Bet they won’t be rushing back to play for us again in Derby. Tonight the View, whilst perhaps not totally aflame were certainly smouldering away nicely, unfortunately Derby wasn’t.

Saturday 4 December 2010

Human League, Civic Hall, Wolverhampton

Tonight, a bit of an 80’s night. The Human League at the Civic Hall.

Support comes from ‘(We Are) Performance’, a three piece from Manchester, who make a great sound. Although I keep looking around for their fourth member, the one who is bashing out all the amazing synth tunes. This is because they consist only of a suave looking singer, who’s good; a girl with a guitar who only strums about three notes (not that that’s a criticism, many a successful career has been founded on less) and an electronics whizz complete his MacBook but even he only seems to play a few electric drum gadgets. That's it. Music is so easy-peasy. When you have it all taped or sequenced.

Still, as I said, they’re very good, well they sound good. They’re also very in keeping with The Human League, who have pulled a sizeable crowd tonight. Rather worryingly though, I might be the youngest one here. Possibly. The combined age of the front row is terrifying. No crowd surfing please gents, not with those walking sticks.

The League take the stage and open with a new track from their forthcoming album ‘Credo’. The track ‘Electric Shock’ seems very well received. Perhaps it’s the hooded monk on vocals that swings it for them. Then the monk removes his hood and blimey, it’s Phil Oakey. The winner of the prize for the most dubious outfit worn on stage at a Human League gig and it’s not an easy one to win, competition is fierce.

Then we’re straight into a run of classics. I can happily report that Phil still can’t hit those high notes in ‘Open Your Heart’ but he never has been able to and it's never bothered him or us. ‘Mirror Man’ follows and then ‘Heart Like A Wheel’ introduced as one of former member Jo Callis’s anti-war songs and that is aptly followed by something in a similar refrain, ‘The Lebanon’. Which brings their frustrated guitarist, Nic Burke, to the fore. It’s good to see he’s still with them and hasn't jumped ship to AC-DC, where I think possibly his heart lies.

As the hits keep coming, ‘Louise’ followed by a couple from Dare, ‘Love Action’ and ‘Sound Of The Crowd’, it’s all very good but I do feel a bit duped. I was intrigued to come because this tour was supposed to be in support of their new album but that is not now out until March. So again tonight we generally get a greatest hits set, which is obviously what the masses want to hear but I wanted to hear what they’d been up to in the studio. Their last album ‘Secrets’ was very good indeed and hugely underrated.

Then came two old oldies. No disrespect to the girls, who went for a breather at this point (we're all getting to that sort of age), but ‘Being Boiled’ was absolutely ace, it sounded great and had the best light show of the night. ‘Empire State Human’, which followed, wasn’t too far behind either, with Phil playing a guitar strap keyboard.

The girls returned after a wardrobe change for the new single ‘Night People’ with its incredibly cheesy lyrics. The song isn’t bad but it seemed a lot of the crowd were perplexed by it and what it was doing ruining their night of nostalgia.

Then another one they probably didn’t know, ‘All I Ever Wanted’, from 'Secrets'. There was no doubting that everyone knew the closing threesome of ‘(Keep Feeling) Fascination’, ‘Tell Me When’ and ‘Don't You Want Me’ though.

‘Seconds’ was a bit of a surprise as the encore with Phil back in monk mode and again no girls. It was also stupendously good. No offence girls. Then they’re back, with another outfit for the closing ‘cover’ of ‘Together In Electric Dreams’.

All good stuff. I would have preferred to hear more songs from ‘Credo’, but that would have upset the masses. Maybe next time.

Friday 3 December 2010

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Rock City, Nottingham

Rock City haven’t got the stage times up for tonight’s concert but their website indicates three bands tonight so by getting there around 7.30 we expect to miss Dark Horses but we should be in time for the Duke Spirit, who I’m keen to see.

Not so. Leila Moss is just finishing up with their last track as we arrive. Only two bands tonight and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club on at 8.00. Oh well, at least not long to wait. Thankfully the band have made it up from last night’s show in Portsmouth. I had a feeling a bit of weather wouldn’t stop them.

The gig is billed as part of Rock City's 30th Anniversary Celebrations, not that this means much. Most of their gigs this month seem to be. It’s still something worth celebrating though.

It’s also landmark time for BRMC. They will be performing their 1000th live concert at the Brixton Academy on December 11th, which makes this their 994th.

They are indeed on at 8.00 and play through for a full two hours. The sound isn’t great tonight and the band are beset by a few technical problems. After the opening ‘666 Conducer’, Peter Hayes’s amp appears to pack up. As they sort it. Robert Been picks up an acoustic guitar and breaks into an unscheduled rendition of ‘Sympathetic Noose’ off their acoustic diversion album ‘Howl’. Hayes’ meanwhile lights up a cigarette. Naughty.

Been doesn’t quite finish ‘Sympathetic Noose’ before the amp is sorted and the boys are back to full volume and power with ‘Stop’. About time. They never play that for me, until now.

When I say ‘the boys’, that is slightly incorrect. Shock Horror. Black Rebel now have a girl drummer. It was their drummer, Nick Jago, who kept drifting in and out of the band. Seems he’s currently out and his place has been taken by Leah Shapiro, who has worked with the Raveonettes. Of course, it's the done thing these days. It used to be bass players, and still is to a certain extent, but now its drummers.

Overall it’s a good solid show with a nice selection of old stuff blended with the new from this year’s ‘Beat the Devil's Tattoo’ album, which sounds much better live than on record, with 'Bad Blood' and ‘Half-State’ as good as anything they've done.

BRMC could easily survive on their no frills roof rattling numbers but instead, they deliver a good mix of slow and fast numbers. An old classic, ‘Whatever Happened to My Rock 'n' Roll (Punk Song)’, probably as old as Hayes’ shirt which has seen better days, gives way to an acoustic segment in the middle of the set.

At least Hayes’ shirt is black. Been takes off his leather jacket to reveal a very unusual site at BRMC gig, a white t-shirt. All his black ones must be in the wash.

The slow numbers include an unexpected cover of The Pogues ‘Dirty Old Town’ done solo by Been. An interesting choice to say the least. Then Hayes takes up the acoustic baton with ‘Complicated Situation’ and ‘The Toll’. It’s quite striking that a band known mainly for their wall of sound are still lifting a lot of stuff off ‘Howl’, showing how good that album actually was. Perhaps not everyone agrees though. Some of the crowd talk through the acoustic numbers; in fact it’s probably the most chattering I’ve ever heard at a gig. Shame on those people.

Later Been even sits at the piano for another mellow moment, ‘Long Way Down’, before they return to the heavier stuff with Baby 81's awesome ‘Berlin’ and ‘Conscience Killer’ off the new record before they end by giving us a right pummelling with an oldie, ‘Six Barrel Shotgun’.

The amp seemed to go again at start of the encore during ‘Spread Your Love’. Time for another smoke eh Peter? Soon sorted though, which leads us into a fairly slow and moody finish with a double header of the brooding extravagance of ‘Shadows Keeper’ and finally ‘Open Invitation’.

Saturday 27 November 2010

We Are Scientists, Rock City, Nottingham

With a door time of 6.30 we miss the opening band of three, Rewards. I didn’t even now we had three bands tonight.

We do catch second up, London’s Goldheart Assembly. Who were once supposed to be one of those happening bands but I don’t think much happened. Something might happen tonight though as they drag an oil drum on stage... The band have been known to use unusual objects as musical instruments and tonight appears to be no exception. Perhaps the fact that the bands two lead vocalists are both ex-zookeepers at Whipsnade Zoo accounts for such eccentricity or maybe not.

They start off a bit messily, with guitarist John Herbert on vocals, using the oil drum and I can’t really make head nor tail of their first two tracks. Track three though is mellower and much better with the bass player, James Dale, taking over vocals, which he seems to do from here on in. From there they kind of kicked on into a sort of more standard indie style and were rather good.

So to another hugely interesting set from We Are Scientists. Keith Murray and Chris Cain are two of the nicest guys you’ll ever see up on stage and rather appropriately they now have a song about ‘Nice Guys’ to open with. It’s probably not autobiographical, when Keith Murray singing ‘Nice guys finish last’ he can’t possibly be talking about himself and it doesn’t stop him complaining about the snow. Though I’m sure they have snow in America too. Perhaps he’s worried about it snowing in Rock City; it certainly seems cold enough in here tonight.

‘Chick Lit’ stokes an already lively crowd before ‘Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt’ makes things really kick off. The oldies are still the favourites. So much so everyone susses the intro to ‘This Scene Is Dead’ even if Keith does try to disguise it a bit.

They roll ‘Inaction’ into it, a trick they do a few times, making up for the time lost to the inevitable stage banter which comes between most songs. Keith casually swigging on a beer, Chris appears to be on juice. The pair of them have a very good rapport with each other, honed through plenty of live shows, and with their audience. It’s clear they love what they do. Then Keith throws his beer at the drummer and... ‘It's A Hit’.

‘Impatience’ is eventful. First some random girl dances across stage and then Keith breaks a string. He gets tangled in his shoulder strap as he attempts a guitar change and it’s to his credit that he manages it without missing a single word of the lyrics.

For ‘Textbook’ Keith leaves the guitar duties to Aaron Pfenning of 'Rewards', who we missed earlier. I think Rewards is basically just him, although random dancing girl might also have something to do with it but I’m not sure. He’s one half of the band Chairlift, who I vaguely know of. I guess we should have been here earlier if we wanted to know everything.

Once he is guitar-less Keith climbs the crowd barrier so that he can get closer to his public, well mainly the adoring female ones. Of which there appear to be many. In fact later, as we do our usual post-gig debrief, my partner only really talks about Keith's bare midriff.

‘The Great Escape’ is as popular and proficient as ever, but also many of the new tracks from 'Barbara' are well received. Particularly 'I Don't Bite', lead single 'Rules Don't Stop' and the excellent ‘Jack & Ginger’. What their material lacks in variety they make up for with the sheer energy with which they deliver it live.

For the closing ‘After Hours’ Goldheart Assembly return to the stage accompanied by their oil drum, Aaron from Rewards and the random dancing girl for the usual communal sing-along. The Scientists always seem to bond with their support bands.

The encore of ‘Dinosaurs’ and ‘Cash Cow’ completes a short but very sweet gig, only just over the hour mark including encore.

Thursday 25 November 2010

The National, Warwick Arts Centre

Tonight we’re in the salubrious surroundings of the Warwick Arts Theatre on Warwick University’s campus to see The National. Last time we were here was a few months ago and among the acts on the stage was the Principal of the University thanking us for leaving our Son in his care for the next three years.

Support tonight’s comes from a band called Phosphorescent. The band is mainly a chap called Matthew Houck who performs with an ever changing group of musicians.

They were ok, worth a listen. In fact at first they were pretty impressive but they soon settled down and their alt-country/folk songs all became a bit samey, one paced. Houck himself has a strong, if slightly irritating voice and you can’t criticize his band for not giving their all because to a man they certainly did. In particular their keyboard player, whose face I never saw, but they were a blur of movement throughout. Their last track mixed things up a bit and started out a bit livelier before it too settling down into a similar comforting plod to the rest of their stuff. Probably just not my thing because they had plenty of admirers tonight.

Rewind to 2005 and my first trip to the Leeds Festival. It wasn't too big a wrench to desert the Queens Of The Stone Age on the main stage, not to my liking, to head to what was then the 'Carling Stage' for the breakthrough acts. A band from Brooklyn called The National were on there entertaining a small crowd. Warming up for the delights to come, mainly Saul Williams, Charlotte Hatherley and Ladytron... as I recall. I had been quite taken with some of the tracks on their second album, 2003's 'Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers' and at Leeds they were excellent. Playing a surprisingly up-tempo set which I later discovered was mainly drawn from their new album at that time 'Alligator'. That was five years ago.

Now two critically acclaimed albums later, 2007’s 'Boxer' and now 'High Violet', one of the albums of this year, they are playing venues such as the Warwick Arts Theatre and it’s far busier than the Carling tent was.

After an entry accompanied by Neil Young’s ‘On The Beach’, it’s with ‘Boxer’ they start and ‘Start A War’. Vocalist Matt Berninger stumbling around like a punk drunk fighter and telling the crowd off for whistling at him. He’s joking, I think, and all the band are in high spirits throughout the night, with the Dessner brothers, Aaron and Bryce on guitars, verbally sparring with Berninger between songs. The National are a very family friendly affair because completing the line up are another set of brothers, Scott and Bryan Devendorf. Bryan somehow smashing a cymbal during ‘Mistaken for Strangers’.

There’s also an additional two members touring with them, adding among other things trumpet and trombone to many tracks. Which are very evident on beefed up rendition of ‘Slow Show’, an often requested wedding song... so they tell us.

'High Violet' may be close on album of the year but it’s actually ‘Boxer’ that provides the most stand out moments tonight. The two I’ve just mentioned plus a very lively ‘Squalor Victoria’, a fantastic ‘Apartment Story’, what they describe as one of their many songs about social anxiety, and the closing ‘Fake Empire’.

They tell us a lot of stuff about their songs. ‘Afraid of Everyone’ is about how f***ed up American politics is. Whilst ‘Conversation 16’ turns out to be about marriage and not they say about cannibalism. I didn’t actually think it was...

They are excellent, if a tad too polished at times. What annoys most is that throughout the night they are fighting off requests for oldies. To be honest I didn’t expect much, if any, really old stuff because I didn’t think anyone would know it but the knowledgeable crowd tonight proved me wrong with their repeated requests. So why not give in and play some? They won’t. Claiming they have a set list to adhere to and anyway Berninger claims to not know the words... Then they do play ‘Available’ and a bit of ‘Cardinal Song’ off ‘Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers’ but it’s mainly a case of showcasing the quality of their last two releases. We get all but one of 'High Violet' and seven tracks from 'Boxer'.

'Alligator' is only plundered twice, first for a corking ‘Abel’ with Berninger screaming the chorus down the microphone at us and then for ‘Mr November’ in the encore, when he does similar.

The highlight from the new album for me is the utter misery that is ‘Sorrow’. Love it.

Finally they give into a request and say they will break band protocol for a guy near the front and insert a song into the set. It’s the excellent ‘Green Gloves’ but hardly an oldie and it’s not inserted, as it replaces a much older track ‘Lucky You’ from the ‘Sad Songs’ era, which is criminally binned.

Berninger croons his way through ‘Runaway’ to start the encore before fierce versions of ‘Mr. November’ and ‘Terrible Love’. They close though with an epic, attention grabbing, totally unplugged version of ‘Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks’. Which was just superb.

Aaron Dessner and Berninger start the song stood on speaker stacks close to the crowd before Berninger journeys deeper into the throng, standing on the crash barrier being held up by a fan and leading the audience in an acoustic sing-along. Terrific stuff.

Wednesday 24 November 2010

Interpol, Rock City, Nottingham

My partner's only here for the blood, that is Florida’s Surfer Blood. After that I might have to keep her awake through the ninety minutes of the morose majesty of Interpol.

There has been quite a bit of internet chatter about Surfer Blood and they are certainly different from tonight’s headliners. For a start singer John Paul Pitts is attired a touch like a public schoolboy but they also sound totally different.

They launch energetically into their first track 'Fast Jabroni'. That is as energetically as a five piece crammed into such a limited amount of stage space can. It's a good song and they appear at their best when they are playing simple up-tempo guitar driven pop songs like that, rather than the few slower numbers they throw in.

However a few songs do veer off successfully into different styles and show they’re capable of mixing it up a touch, such as on ‘Twin Peaks’ where there’s all sorts of things going on. Their best known moment so far though is the annoyingly catchy anthem that is 'Swim', which closes their very short set.

The band are pleasant enough in a quirky sort of way but are just one of several bands doing this sort of thing at the moment. What other bands don’t have perhaps is a keyboard player with such impressive hair along with a set of maracas and other cool things that he keeps in a bag of tricks slung under his keyboard.

Presumably it's usually the record company’s idea but bands should never self title an album. It's just plain dull for a start and utterly pointless. You should know who the album is by, I would hope, and it's so lazy. It shows a lack of creativity which tends to be repeated throughout the tracks on the album, so it should serve as a warning to us buyers as well. If you must do it. First album only. Never after that. Certainly never your fourth as Interpol have done.

The signs are that the band themselves aren’t that enamoured with it either, which backs up my thesis, because only five tracks are played from it tonight. Add to that the fact founder member Carlos Dengler left straight after the album was complete to 'concentrate on other things'. Maybe this shows he wasn’t that keen on it either. That said; it isn’t too bad. A little underwhelming on first listen but it's a real grower. Carlos, you should have given it another spin mate.

'Success' the opener on the album and also the opener tonight, is slower, steadier and more funereal than their last two albums, harking back to the style of their debut, 'Turn on The Bright Lights'. Things immediately get a touch livelier with the next track, a rocking 'Say Hello To The Angels', proving that they had rare upbeat moments even on their debut album.

The plus side of the new album only being lightly touched upon was that tonight became pretty much a retro night and this yielded a quite brilliant set full of juicy treats with six tracks from each of their first two albums.

'Antics' supplies us with ‘Narc’, which soars along whereas ‘Length Of Love’, a nice extravagance, swaggers.

With Carlos D gone, the new boy on bass is David Pajo, who it has to be said is pretty anonymous throughout. Perhaps he’s nervous; he appears to have a quadruple brandy next to his water. Is this to help him get through it?

Main stays guitarist Daniel Kessler and main man Paul Banks, who met in a philosophy class you know, are positively lively by comparison. The band’s lack of mobility is legendary but they are far from statuesque tonight. Not that they leap around the stage or anything. That would have somewhat spoiled things.

Paul Banks is positively chatty, well almost. He even puts names to a couple of songs. Nice hat by the way Paul. He even smiles a bit. Daniel Kessler smiles a lot and his expertly delivered guitar hooks are accompanied by some neat footwork.

There’s only one track from 'Our Love To Admire', which was a bit harsh on what isn't a bad album and 'Rest My Chemistry' wouldn't have been my choice either but it’s affecting enough.

Everything is accompanied by a never ending fog of smoke that envelopes the barely lit stage, so the band all have their own little lights so that they can read their set lists. All this means there’s not a lot to aim the new camera at. So it’s just a case of stand back and appreciate the music which is as tightly performed and as expansive as expected.

The trio of hits from 'Antics', their more populist more upbeat album, are all present and correct: - 'Slow Hands', 'Evil' and 'C'mere' and it helps to lighten the mood of the darker stuff. Those numbers also blend well with recent single 'Barricade' but it was their choice of oldies that excites and makes it such a great night.

‘NYC’ isn’t always in their sets, which is a shame, as it’s just so fantastically moody and wonderfully done tonight, wallowing in its own exquisite misery. As for ‘Leif Erikson’. Just amazing. Well I think so but my partner is looking a bit bewildered. I guess with Interpol you either revel in their intensity or... well, not.

There are some new slow burning epics too. Particularly the dazzling 'Lights'. When Banks poignantly cries ‘That's why I hold you dear’ you feel that perhaps he means it.

They close with a thumping 'Not Even Jail' which means that 'The New', a real rarity that sent the forums all a chatter when it surfaced mid set at their last gig two nights ago in Germany after (apparently) seven years of not begin played, isn’t in the set tonight.

Ah, but it is. Disappointment turns to delight as the encore from heaven for any hardcore Interpol fan follows. Not that I would regard myself as hardcore but anyway. You would have thought it unlikely that they'd play 'Untitled' but to not only play it but then follow it with 'The New' and then 'PDA' is simply sensational. That’ll upset them and make them drool in equal measures back in their home country across the pond. That’s an entire encore from the darkest depths of ‘Turn on the Bright Lights’ and some way to finish.

Tuesday 16 November 2010

Gaslight Anthem, Rock City

It’s an early start for Leamington Spa's Sharks, a 7.40 stage time, ten minutes after doors open. I'm stuck outside in the queue and suspect Sharks are playing to about fifty people but no. It's packed inside when I finally get in; they're already hanging from the rafters. What I see of Sharks is quite promising and thankfully they have nothing in common with the 70’s band of the same name. The only 70’s thing about them is lead singer/guitarist James Mattock’s sleeveless Exorcist t-shirt, a film that pre-dates him by a couple of decades.

He strikes a confident figure, has a strong voice and overall I like their lively punk sound. They’re also a good test platform for my new camera. Well they are until, amid much confusion, they abort their set a song early due to a broken drum kit. Just how do you break a drum kit? Not seen that before and how does it hold you back. One drum, possibly a snare, surely does not matter much but they go off anyway. I’ll forgive them; they’re a young band who haven’t learnt the art of improv yet. Then again many experienced bands haven't or simply can’t be bothered to improvise when required.

The chap who walks on next and slings his jacket on the floor before tuning up an acoustic guitar could have been a roadie but how many roadies do you see in a flat cap? No this is Chuck Ragan who certainly fits the experienced description. The American singer/songwriter has been a member of Florida rock band Hot Water Music since 1993.

Like the Gaslight Anthem’s last UK tour support, Frank Turner, Chuck is another ex-punk rocker who has picked up the acoustic and gone folk. They like their maverick acoustic performers do the Gaslight. I’m obviously going to say Frank is better and he is. Chuck was good though, a bit more ‘throaty’ with his vocals than our Frank and whereas Frank has an entire band to back him, Chuck just has his side kick, John on the fiddle. It’s all very, well folk. All we need now is a spot of harmonica, which duly arrives on track four. Anyone called Chuck has to have a harmonica. At which point things do veer dangerous into barn dance territory but between them they ignite Rock City with their sheer energy, Chuck n John quite a match. Move over Kate n Wills.

And so to the Gaslight, who again come on stage a good ten minutes early. Isn’t that refreshing? Provided of course you’re not running late yourself, and thankfully I’m not. They’re known for playing ‘value you for money’ slots but will be up against one of Rock City’s immovable curfews, so it’s good that they’re getting started early.

Opening with their recent single, odd choice though it was, ‘The Spirit of Jazz’ they get the place jumping straight away, through another newbie ‘Boxer’ and the cracking ‘Casanova, Baby!’

Then Brian Fallon launches into one of his huge monologues before they play ‘The Diamond Church Street Choir’, about cakes, and his mother, who told him that rock 'n' roll was from the devil and gives you STD's and he probably mentions other things but they are largely indecipherable due to his thick New Jersey accent. He rambles a bit, as perhaps you can tell and he’s fascinated by the balloons which have lights in them, so he bursts one to see how it works... and some lag predictably likens it to a condom, which is perhaps how we got on to STD’s and his mother, and maybe cakes but who knows. He’s prone to ramble a bit. Have I mentioned this?

Oh and he also has his flat cap on... and the band have a flat capped roadie. So there’s flat caps everywhere tonight, just shows what I know.

He could have probably talked all night but he’s wasting serious music time. Which when it comes is seriously good. Then he picks up a harmonica in middle of ‘Old White Lincoln’, what else.

Of course nobody can mention the Gaslight without mentioning Springsteen and the band are now clearly sick of the comparisons but they did dig themselves a rather large hole with their second, albeit brilliant, album ’The 59 Sound’ and then shovel the soil in over themselves by going on and on about it.

Now they say they’re moved on, grown up, but they will never get away from it. Though to be fair their new album ‘American Slang’ sounds nothing like Springsteen. It sounds like plenty of other things but not ‘him’. More importantly it sounds like them. Whilst despite the popularity of ‘The 59 Sound’, probably the reason for the near sell out tonight, their best album remains, in my opinion anyway, their first album ‘Sink Or Swim’ from which ‘We Came To Dance’ and ‘Wooderson’ are both particularly electric tonight.

On CD the new album comes over as perhaps a bit too glossy. Whose third album isn't? Live, as ever, it sounds much rawer. 'Stay Lucky' particularly appears faster and punkier, whereas some of the slower tracks sound much more epic and ‘The Queen of Lower Chelsea’ is a stand out moment.

Naturally there are a couple of covers. Wilson Pickett’s ‘In the Midnight Hour’ is instantly recognisable but Wayne Cochran’s ‘Last Kiss’ is met with many a bemused look and sends me scrabbling post-gig for someone with a stolen set list.

Then finally chance for the Brucie lovers to go ape with the closing duo of ‘Great Expectations’ and ‘The 59 Sound’ for which Chuck Ragan returns to the stage to assist.

The title track of 'American Slang' opens the encore but the highlight has to be ‘1930’ from 'Sink Or Swim' which follows. Before the slower ‘Miles Davis and the Cool’ leads us into the usual rousing finale of ‘The Backseat’.

A damn good night. They missed a few faves out but very few bands rotate a set list like these guys do, and they’ll be getting those in Leeds tomorrow.