There are some bands that I like so much that not only will I go to see them as often as I can (even if the last time was only a matter of weeks ago) but I will also try to “sell” them to other music fans (and anybody else that will listen or who just happens to be standing in the way of my voice…). Tonight, however, is the first time that anybody has ever listened to one of my recommendations. Hopefully, the headliners won’t make a liar out of me.
Unfortunately, due to a desire for a decent drink and the vagaries of knowing when acts are due to start at Fibbers, Roy, Richard and I missed the start of Nick Tudor’s set. I say unfortunate for two reasons – firstly I like to think that I give all acts an equal listen and secondly because this one was actually very good. Nick himself looks like a cross between Paul Weller and Liam Gallagher and postures a bit like Mick Jagger. Tonight playing with a drummer and bass-player, Nick gave us some pretty good vocals and impressive guitar work. The handful of songs we heard included (and I’m guessing at some titles, here) the rocky Bring Me Down and Tears Roll Down as well as the slower, but equally good, Brick By Brick. The final, epic song of the set started out with hints of Oasis before turning into second half of blistering, effects-laden guitar. Definitely an act I wouldn’t mind seeing again.
It is, perhaps, a little unfair to judge local band Pelico on the basis of tonight’s performance as, from where I was standing (my usual spot, a bit in front of the sound desk), I could barely hear a thing over the noise of the large, ignorant section of the audience who insisted on talking shouting to each other over the music. It’s a shame because, from what I did hear, the band sounded as if they could be interesting. A four-piece comprising of Brian (vocals), Nick (bass, vocals and percussion), Rob (drums and percussion) and Ash (vocals and, unusually, acoustic guitar) they play an indefinable and unusual (in my experience) sort of folk rock, with nice vocal harmonies. Manfully battling on against the ambient noise and looking only slightly annoyed at the lack of attention they were getting, they gave us Passing Places, Sleeping On The Floor, Who You Are and something which I noted down as Fine, but might actually have been Fly, featuring Ash on lead vocals, along with a much more catchy song which may have been called Throw Me A Lifeline. Strangely, between songs they were applauded and cheered by more people than who seemed to be listening, including people standing behind me who can’t have heard a great deal and I can’t help but think that they were, perhaps, the wrong sort of band for tonight’s crowd and that they might, in fact, do better at a more intimate venue.
And so to the headliners and, being honest, the band that the vast majority of the crowd was here to see. Micky-taking, banter, laughs, blue blazers, audience sing-alongs, superb music and an impromptu line-dance from the brass section… Yes, it has to be Hope & Social, back in York to promote their third studio album, Sleep Sound, which was released last week on the usual pay-what-you-want basis (available in physical and download forms from their website and from no good record stores…) and, less than twelve hours later was already number on on Bandcamp. It’s no mean feat to get nineteen people, as well as instruments for an eight-piece band on a stage the size of the one at Fibbers but, opening with Sleep Sound itself, Hope & Social managed it by inviting a choir on stage with them. There was the usual banter between songs as Family Man was followed by old favourite (and, apparently, my daughter’s current second favourite song) Pitching Far Too High and then a return to new material with Rolling Sideways. You could almost see the idea cross Simon’s mind when, instead of taking to the front of the stage to deliver the crowd-pleasing Looking For Answers, he wandered out into the crowd to deliver an excellent acoustic performance “in the round” and show exactly what a superb natural voice he has. After that we were treated to Marching On Through, which was amusingly and almost seamlessly morphed into My Girl and followed by another new song, The Road Never Lies, which not only started a round of “musical instruments” (as opposed to chairs) by having drummer Gary Stewart on keys, but also showed that the band can take you from hilarity to lump-in-the-throat in a heartbeat. Gary also got time in the spotlight when he was allowed to infiltrate the middle of Red Red Rose with Paul Simon’s You Can Call Me Al, which he sang while also drumming. Abba’s Take A Chance On Me also made a brief cameo towards the end of Red Red Rose. Another new song, Fast Train, ended a set which had already overrun but there was no way that we were leaving without an encore (“Or we could riot,” enthused Simon, fist pumping) and after a very brief call for “More!” and a quick check with the sound desk, the band returned for the banjo-led A Darkness Now Is Coming before some band members worked the crowd, selling copies of the new album. Despite only including one song from the first album and, obviously, favouring the new material, this was a nice mix of old and new.
I find it hard to describe Hope & Social (I wish I had come up with “A Yorkshire E Street Band”, but somebody else beat me to it) and easy to enthuse about them. All three of their albums are superb, but they are even better (and excellent value) live. Entertainers in every sense of the word, their gigs are always included as highlights in my annual round-up and, while tonight may have been a bit subdued by their usual standards (and definitely compared to the last time we saw them) it was still head and shoulders above most bands. They work hard, they play hard and they have a superb attitude towards music. It’s fairly obvious that I can’t recommend them highly enough and would urge anybody reading this to at least download and try out some of their stuff. You can do it genuinely for free – they don’t even ask for your email address. Oh, and for the record, debutante Richard was impressed and is already talking about seeing them again…