There’s something “old-style” about Carnabells – their shirts, hairstyles (and sideburns), the frontman’s guitar and, most evidently, their music all combine to produce a live set that could have stepped straight out of some 60s/70s hybrid. Imagine the Monkees, if the whole band was English and, more specifically, from Yorkshire. Old fashioned pop with more than a hint of rock-and-roll leapt of the stage in a fast and energetic way that proved that, however much music has “moved on”, older styles never really die and can still be relevant and entertaining. After kicking things off with Tell Me A Story and Rock And Rock Dream the band played a light, Summery song in the form of their latest single Call The Sunshine. What Did I Do? featured a lively rat-a-tat drum line. “Don’t be afraid to dance,” was the suggestion from the stage – a few weren’t, even more simply nodded along to the music. The next track – possibly called Station Road – was the fastest so far but, even so, the keyboards really came through. My Town was followed by the previous single, Magazine Dream, bringing the lively and entertaining set to a close. There’s no sign of an album yet but if there had been, a copy would have been coming home with me.
“I think I got away with that. I don’t think anybody noticed,” quipped Hope & Social’s Rich Huxley. A few seconds earlier, returning from an unscheduled mid-song wander off stage, the bottle of beer that he had gone to retrieve held triumphantly aloft, he had somehow managed to trip and fall his full length. Simon Wainwright, barely able to sing for laughing, had just one request, “God, if I ever lose my memory, please let me remember that one thing.” It is a mark of a Hope & Social gig that I usually end up making more notes about what happens between (and, often, during) the songs than I do about the music itself. Tonight was no exception – early on Simon introduced Danny, the band’s “temp-ish” bass-player and then pointed out to him that he had received a “lukewarm reception”. Later he mentioned out that it was drummer Gary Stewart’s second gig in two hours, but told the audience not to clap. There was a rare serious moment during the introduction to Family Man, but the mood was soon broken with another joke at Gary’s expense. This isn’t a band in which to make a mistake while playing – you can guarantee it won’t be forgotten and, quite possibly, pounced on and exaggerated. For the past few nights, we are told, trombonist Rosie has misplayed the introduction to Back To The Green. An introduction she wrote. I’m not sure Simon suggesting we treat her like a goalkeeper taking a goal kick would have helped her concentration that much, but she got a huge cheer when she got it right tonight. It always appears, however, that this is a fun band to be in. Despite the serious undertones to some of their songs, the music is never less than light and the band always clearly have fun on stage, seemingly always trying to get one over on each other. Simon was reduced to laughter once more when, in reply to a request to “sax me up, baby”, John launched into a rendition of the Eastenders theme tune.
Hope & Social always involve their audience and tonight is no exception, from a sing-along during One Way Home through to a conga-line during Back To The Green, by way of trying to find love for Trevor, a member of the crowd. They don’t, however, like talkers in the crowd and Simon repeatedly tries to “Ssshhhh” the crowd during the introduction to Dust. The mood was once again broken when Simon pointed out that Rich, on keyboard for this song, is “having a nightmare”. I only wish I had seen what had happened this time. “Let’s do the one we’re never sure how it starts,” suggested Simon, off-mic, to the rest of the band before they played the brilliantly named Shake Your Gimli. In another example of inclusion, the crowd were allowed to vote for the final song, Rolling Sideways got the biggest cheer ahead of All Our Dancing Days, Pitching Far Too High, Beethoven’s Ninth and Yesterday. I’m not sure we were expecting its mid section to be a rendition of Blue Pearl’s Naked In The Rain, though. As is becoming the norm, the band stayed on stage for the encore and, again, we were given a choice. This time All Our Dancing Days and Eurospin received equal cheers. “We’ll do Dancing Days,” said Simon, “because we’re crap at it and need the practice.” No, they’re not and no, they didn’t – it’s all part of the self-deprecatory act. One of the best and most entertaining live acts out there, I would recommend Hope & Social to anybody who likes great music, laughter and fun gigs.