Sunday 18 April 2010

Renegades, Sheffield Leadmill

A word or three about Essex boys Morning Parade, who I imagine we’ll be hearing a lot more about. They reminded me a hell of a lot of White Lies, albeit perhaps more cheerful and they may go on to be more successful. Every track of theirs was pretty impressive and they seem to go down very well with the audience. It appears that they came up from Essex just for this one gig and I think judging by the impression they made it was well worth the cost of the petrol. They have a very crafted powerful sound although I can’t help thinking perhaps they’re trying to cram too much in, using two guitars but then overpowering it with perhaps too much keyboard but there’s no doubting the quality of the tunes they have there. They’re at the Dot-to-dot in Nottingham, tempting. A very pleasant half hour and a good warm-up before the main event this evening. Not that anyone needed warming up. Blimey, it’s hot tonight in the Leadmill.

Just under a year ago, Feeder split with their drummer of seven years Mark Richardson, who returned to the reformed Skunk Anansie. Their most recent album, 2008’s badly received ‘Silent Cry’, had seen them reach the end of their record deal, leaving the band in limbo a little. Grant Nicholas though clearly saw this as an opportunity and perhaps a chance to do something different for a while, whilst the creative cuffs were off. Now I must confess I had the guy all wrong, I thought he was happy simply topping up his pension plan by touring the same Feeder classics set list forever. I even assumed that those were his favourite songs. Seems I was mistaken. Instead he and Taka Hirose, hired a new drummer, the impressive Karl Brazil, put the other musicians they use on gardening leave, left the keyboard at home and went back to how they had started out, on the road as a three-piece.

The 'Renegades' project was born and the band booked a low-key six date tour and released a tour only EP on their own label. Mirroring perhaps Feeder's first release, the 'Two Colours' EP back in 1995 which was also only available at the band's gigs. Their intention to play only new material may have ruffled a few feathers with some of the newer fans, who may have been unaware of the band's past (OMG! No Feeling A Moment?) but it certainly delighted oldies like me who've been more of less the whole distance with them... or it would have done if I could have got to any of those shows. To make things even better they weren't actually playing just new stuff but also a few golden oldies but really old oldies. Bands always have to remember where they came from and suddenly 'Renegades' were right on the money.

Now they're back for some more dates and this time I had no intention of missing out.

But... honestly Grant, shall I get the whinge out the way first, cause I’m always going to have one. I know I missed out on the last tour but I've seen it on YouTube, so it's very nice of you but you didn't have to play all the same Renegades songs and in the same order... well, ok so you moved 'Home' but other than that they were in the same order. This makes it far too easy for an ageing blogger to keep track, whereas amnesia may have otherwise set in.

So still Mr Frustrating in one way... Why no new songs? Do we assume you're keeping the rest of the dozens of songs you claim to have written for Feeder? Ok so I'll never be happy and what's life without a bit of predictability. Life's just a piece of fruit, and all that... but more of that later.

Let's start at the beginning because, I have to say, the Renegades material was pretty damn amazing. The chap next to me was wondering if they’d open with ‘We Are The People’ again, err no. Instead I think a breakneck ‘Barking Dogs’, the heaviest of the tracks on EP1, pinned his ears back a touch. Poorly received as Silent Cry was at least it broke the back of the suspicion that the band were in danger of turning into a soft rock band but the ante has now been seriously upped. Tonight is something else. Renegades are loud, powerful and unashamedly last century retro-Feeder.

'Home', I love 'Home'. Like most of the new stuff it’s a return to basics, with a ferocious tempo, a thumping bass line and at an energy level that they manage to keep up for the rest of the night. It’s terrific but it seems not everyone agrees with me. Two tracks in and we have a heckler. Grant ignores him but it clearly rattles him. He explains to everyone almost apologetically what the Renegades project is all about and then attempts to blow Mr Heckler away with a dose of ‘Sentimental’, right between the eyes. ‘Sentimental’ is tremendous tonight, far better than on CD.

I think the heckler is getting to Grant and he introduces ‘Left Foot Right’ out of sequence before correcting himself and playing the gentler intro to ‘This Town’ instead. Not that it stays gentle for long, as it gives way to another monster tune.

Then ‘Left Foot Right’, yeah you can play it now. It’s probably not the best of the new stuff but it’s certainly one of the heaviest and grungiest.

Mr Heckler clearly doesn’t approve of heavy or grunge, loudly proclaiming that 'I came here for a f***ing Feeder gig' before shouting for ‘Buck Rogers’ and Grant has to deal with him. ‘I think you've got the wrong gig mate’ he tells him. To be fair to the chap, the Leadmill have been advertising tonight as a Feeder gig, as have the ticket agencies, my ticket also says Feeder on it and not everyone reads Facebook where the band have been crystal clear what these gigs are all about. Grant himself put the blame squarely with the promoters in an interview in last week’s Sheffield Star. Personally he would have preferred to have stuck to the smaller venues of the first tour but promoters clearly have mortgages to pay as well.

Mr Heckler storms off, so I’m not sure if he heard ‘Down To The River’ or not. He might have even approved, it’s probably the most ‘modern’ Feeder-ish song they play tonight and it's a good one too. If Grant's looking for another chart friendly epic, he may just have written it here. That said I'll be soon be sick of it if it becomes another 'lighters n phones in the air' anthem.

Then it’s back to rocking out with the awesome bass driven, 'White Lines' which judders along, rattling the walls and recreating the glorious sound of the Polythene/Swim era all over again.

Then Grant asks for requests for next time. It’s reassuring they’ll be a next time. Somebody shouts out for ‘Cement’, oops that was me, but instead we get a choice. ‘Tangerine’ or ‘Godzilla’? Surely though ‘Godzilla’ breaks the 'oldie' rules, I mean it's off ‘Comfort in Sound’ for God’s sake, ok it doesn’t sound like it’s off ‘Comfort in Sound’ but it is. Anyhow, it matters not; ‘Tangerine’ gets the biggest cheer. A track that had become a running joke between the band and the older fans who have called for it at practically every Feeder gig. Never one of my favourites but it was good to hear it again, particularly as Grant announced they would be retiring it for good after this tour.

Then back to the new. The band again rolling back the years with ‘End of the Road’ which is practically punk rock. With Mr Heckler gone the band are now clearly enjoying themselves, as are the audience, even those who may have been suckered by the promoters.

Then I recognise the words but not the intro, because they’ve changed the start to their signature tune 'Renegades'. A cracking track in the first place, that seemingly couldn’t be improved on but has been, by the addition of a teasing, hairs on the back of the neck raising intro before galloping off at its usual fast tempo. Wonderful. Cue real activity across the crowd for the first time tonight. If they could get all this material released then the gigs will be real lively once everyone knows the songs.

The set is concluded in around 50 minutes and closes with another corker ‘Call Out’, almost as impossibly catchy as ‘Renegades’, all it needs is familiarity.

Only 50 minutes but we’re all exhausted and sweating buckets, although this has a lot to do with the phenomenally hot temperature inside the Leadmill, even before the bands started. Someone clearly forgot to adjust the thermostat to a springtime setting.

Then it's the eagerly awaited encore...

When Grant said he was going to play something off 1996's 'Swim' I don't think anyone foresaw W.I.T. (otherwise known as 'Women In Towels'). It’s not one of the more obvious choices but I have to admit, it had some clout live. This is followed by ‘Sweet 16’, slightly slower than it once was perhaps? But still I sung myself hoarse to that. Marvellous stuff.

I have to confess to being a bit gutted we didn’t get ‘Shade’, like lucky lucky Newcastle on Friday but having said that the alternative was thumping rendition of the almighty ‘Descend’. Returned to its rightful place as the set closer, you can take your ‘Just A Day’ and your ‘Lost And Found’ and stuff em’ mid-set thank you very much. This is the way to close. ‘Descend’ was simply brutal tonight.

As Renegades, the band have rediscovered what made them such a potent live band in the first place and long may it continue, at least to the end of the year by the sound of things. I'm sure there must be a spare night at Nottingham Rescue Rooms this summer with their name on it... a chance to dust down some more oldies... Crash, Stereo World, Can’t Dance To Disco (ok perhaps over hopeful there)... CEMENT... hint, hint, hint, HINT.

They say you can never go back... you should never go back, but... and this has got to be unique. A band takes you back over a decade in sound and does it without having to resort to the ‘playing a classic album in its entirety’ route; mind you I’d buy a ticket if they did. Instead they did it with predominately new material.

One old fan left the gig tonight having met up again with an old flame, that being one of his favourite bands of all time, who re-ignited the fire he thought they’d lost years ago... and I'm sure I wasn't the only one.

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