Hope and Social – Stereo, 15/09/10

Time for a midweek outing to Stereo to see a couple of favourites…

…but first, it’s Marbled, who I last saw supporting Fish at The Duchess. I freely admitted that I wasn’t taking much notice that evening and my over-riding memory was of an angry tone (I’m fairly sure it wasn’t directed at those of us who were chatting at the back, but you never know) to both his lyrics and his guitar playing. So, I was quite surprised to find that tonight’s act was primarily of a much softer nature with a mixture of styles, including some clever finger-picking. The vocals were much more subtle than I remembered, with only his final song being what I would describe as “shouty”. Licking Electricity was somewhere in the middle of the two extremes and was my favourite song of the set. He also came out into the crowd and played The Beat Goes On, a fully acoustic pop song about how rubbish music was in the 60’s, when people just went to gigs to scream at the band. A pleasant start to the evening, if not completely to my tastes.

Next up was Gary Stewart, the only act on tonight’s bill that I hadn’t seen before. Or had I? He did look slightly familiar. I’m sure it will come back to me… Gary started off with In The Pines, a nice little bit of delicate guitar backed by a singing voice which, at least partly due to his Scottish accent, sounded a bit more folky than most acts we see. Jekyll And Hyde was a harder, foot stomping song, while Maggie Oh was a much faster piece. Three songs and we already knew that he had variety. Joined by Rich Huxley for the third song, we also saw a bit of humour and banter coming out as well. Rich also played on Take Me Down but then left the stage for Behind The Door which was, in my opinion, too repetitive. All the songs so far had come from Gary’s debut album, Boy Cries Wolf, which was released just this week. His final song, which doesn’t appear on the album (and whose title I missed) featured some much more powerful guitar-playing and echo-enhanced vocals. It was also my favourite song from the set.

(Addendum – I bought Boy Cries Wolf on the night and am happy to say that, with the vocals on Behind The Door being shared with Ellen Smith, of Ellen And The Escapades, the repetitiveness is diminished and it’s a much better song.)

GT Turbo, tonight in his Boss Caine persona (or is it always that way? He has so many names, I get confused.) is another favourite of mine. The only problem I have is that his songs are so good and so easily imprinted on my memory that it can feel as though you are hearing the same set over and over, even when he varies it. So, it was with some pleasure that I heard him play a completely new (to me) song, Father Time, last time I saw him. Tonight it got even better with two more new songs. At least one of these, Devils On Dean Street if I heard correctly, will be on his second album (due any time now and not soon enough). Only one song, the lovely Sweet Sorrow Surrender, came from the debut album, while Dead Man’s Suit and “She Laughs At All My Jokes” (not the real title, but if you’ve heard it, you’ll know the song) are two of his staples. For the final song, “a cautionary tale about cocaine”, he was joined by Tim Fox on harmonica, providing a nice symmetry to the set as the opener, the aforementioned Father Time, featured Vin North on the same instrument. This was another brilliant, if short, set from York’s very own Boss.

Finally, though, it was the band that we’d all come along to see (no offence to the others…). But who is the little guy taking up position on the drum stool? Well, it’s none other than Gary Stewart. No wonder he looked familiar – it was just the lack of blue blazer and drumsticks and the addition of a guitar which had prevented us from recognising Hope & Social‘s drummer. That explains why Rich knew so many of his songs. Now, by this time, we had moved forward quite considerably and, in fact, made up part of the front row of the audience. Because of that, I didn’t use my mobile to take any notes – partly because it would have looked a bit rude and partly because I didn’t want Simon to see me and think I was texting somebody. So, titles of songs played tonight are sadly missing from this review. I can, however, remember that there was a good mix of songs from both albums (Architects Of This Church and April – both available at whatever price you want to pay from the above link) with, perhaps, more from the first album than last time we saw them.

It has to be said that, tonight, the band were on fire, playing louder, heavier and faster than I ever remember them doing in the past. Rich was practically dancing across his effects pedals, while Ed seemed to use every extremity (and more than one elbow) to play his keyboards, barely sitting in his seat. Banter was thrown around the stage like their lives depended on it with any slight mistake (and there were a few) picked up and mercilessly exploited and any chance for p*ss-taking taken without hesitation. Once again, with a small stage, large band (although the brass section was down to just two tonight), number of instruments and the amount of bouncing and spinning going on, it’s somewhat amazing that nobody got injured and that nothing got broken, such was the enthusiasm on show tonight. Sadly, there were no kazoos (I’d lost mine but two of the gang had brought theirs along) but we did get the audience singalong during the usual acoustic version of Looking For Answers, which is always nice to both hear and be a part of. Hope & Social are never disappointing and tonight was easily the best gig of theirs that I’ve been to. A thoroughly entertaining evening which, thankfully, went on well beyond the advertised finish time.

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About Ian

Regular gig-goer in York, both to see local and touring bands. Huge music fan, with more CDs than my wife thinks any one person should own. I also collect American comics, read a lot of SF and fantasy and am a season-ticket holder at Leeds United.
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