Posts Tagged ‘Sheffield Scenester’

@ Don Valley Bowl


Arriving at the Don Valley Bowl, one would be forgiven for thinking the venue was playing host to a travelling circus. A giant marquee – last seen enclosing BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend – had been raised to cover the Arctic Monkeys’ twin evening concerts. The Bowl, situated in the backyard of Sheffield Ice Arena and the Don Valley Stadium which hosts the city’s half marathon, was primed. Tonight’s two hour headline set is equally testing but the Sheffield sensations successfully avoid a slip-up here.

First up shortly after 6 o’clock are the Steel City’s own Dead Sons. Considering the band’s first gig was only last July in a sweaty and packed DQ, as part of Tramlines 2010, they have progressed markedly. The five-piece act includes ex-Milburners Tom Green and Joe Rowley whose vocals are Tom Meighan-esque. Here they provide a vintage, night-warming support slot notable for a lack of audience interaction. I Am The Lord and Junk Room stand out in particular, encouraging the first moshing with their shades of Kasabian’s electronica backed by thrashing cymbals. This lot could be very good.

The Vaccines take to the stage next providing a welcome injection of indie pop prowess. They are currently riding the wave of their hype-driven debut record What Did You Expect…? which alike the Arctic Monkeys’ first effort was brought a week forwards on release. Tonight the London four-piece treat us to 7 numbers including the 87 second romp of Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra). Justin Young’s vocals are strangely anthemic on Wetsuit – possibly the first ever song written about donning aquatic swimwear. The highlight though is a riveting run-through of If You Wanna, a trademark indie track already on playlists in the likes of Bungalows and Bears.

To complete the support acts Miles Kane swaggers on to a raucous reception while gesticulating for more decibels. “We are very happy to be here” says Kane, a scouser, who some variously label as Alex Turner’s doppelganger or musical alter-ego. The ‘other brother’ in the Last Shadow Puppets make-up proceeds through 10 of the 12 songs off his debut solo LP Colour Of The Trap which peaked at an agonising number 11 in the UK Albums Chart. Ending with the catchy single Inhaler, Kane’s set leaves few breathless but it certainly pleases the fluorescent adolescents within the heterogeneously-aged crowd.

Four months waiting and finally it’s the turn of the Arctic Monkeys. Waltzing on stage to Hot Chocolate’s You Sexy Thing, Sheffield’s prodigal sons embrace their homecoming crowd. “Tonight there’ll be some love” Alex Turner promises during the evening’s opener The View From The Afternoon. With Turner sporting a t-shirt featuring the Sheffield City Council emblem, tonight’s gig indeed bears all the hallmarks of an affectionate reunion. “Who’s from High Green?” he later quizzes the 10,000-odd faithful herded into the band’s specially-erected tent, to a decent response.

The selection of The Full Monty title track is a stroke of genius. It immediately has the expectant fans boogying and in full voice which is important after their poorly received 2009 Reading & Leeds headlining performances. And to further silence those doubters the Monkeys blister through an opening quartet of “early” songs including the wall of sound that is Brianstorm and the irresistible solos of Still Take You Home.

The term “early” is now synonymous with the pre-Humbug era of Arctic Monkeys discography. That Josh Homme-influenced third album recorded in the Mojave ironically deserted a substantial proportion of the Arctic’s fanbase and is thus reflected in the inclusion tonight of only three numbers from its sleeve. Conversely the material from the newly released fourth attempt Suck It And See blends in seamlessly. The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala in particular complements the chimes of Cornerstone and a rare, celebrated acoustic version of Mardy Bum, when the Monkeys decide to “slow things down”.

The bulk of the set leans on the first two albums with Nick O’Malley’s basslines reverberating around the tent interior on Teddy Picker and If You Were There, Beware. It doesn’t take a sharp eye to tell that the youthful exuberance and passion are absent from the inevitable renditions of When The Sun Goes Down and I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor. The quartet must loathe playing the two club-adopted classics but are well aware that a riot would ensue in the event of their exclusion. When Kane surprisingly returns to stage there are excited whispers of a Last Shadow Puppets cameo but the wishful thinking is swiftly dispelled. Cue instead the spine-tingling 505 with Kane on guitar.

Fittingly the night closes with A Certain Romance, signalled by Matt Helders’ rumbling drums. Turner chuckles when chewing his lyrics on the last verse. “Oh I don’t care” he wanes, but neither do the adoring masses who rejoicingly recite for him. “It’s been an honour Sheffield” says the departing Turner. The feeling is mutual duck.

Rating: 9 out of 10

This review was published by Sheffield Scenester and can be found at:

Were you there? Is this a fair reflection of the gig?

 Patience is Strength EP

Alvarez Kings

Of National Importance Records

Released: 11/04/2011

Alvarez Kings – reportedly named after a 1950’s mafia gang – certainly seem to possess the right attitude to succeed in the music industry. The Rotherham four-piece had already secured two European record deals with Italian and German labels respectively when they approached the UK’s Of National Importance records with an offer they couldn’t refuse. “We were getting tired of waiting for them” explained lead singer Simon Thompson in an interview with Exposed magazine. “The good thing about the three deals we’ve signed is that we pretty much have complete control. We’ve told them what we want to release and even when we want to release it.” Command taken.

What’s more impressive is the self-proclaimed ‘regressive pop’ quartet resisted initial courtships with labels in an attempt to cement their sound. And how their dicey gamble has paid off. After sweeping up the coveted Best Live Band gong at this year’s Sheffield Scenester Awards the Kings have gone on to produce a stonker of an EP in Patience Is Strength. The impact of this five song selection is as forceful as the Earth-grazing meteorite to which they share their forename. Laced with eclectic guitar riffs, thunderous drums and groovy basslines, this record is one of the finest indie-rock exports from South Yorkshire since the early days of the Arctic Monkeys. The comparisons end there though with Sheffield’s most-loved primates.

Each track is characterised by an incredibly catchy guitar intro that instantly entices the listener. This isn’t to suggest a repeated pattern in song construction. In You, Me, Them, Us the Kings have crafted a masterful and dynamic tune courtesy of older brother Paul Thompson’s bumbling bass. The mood of panic is conveyed via Thompson junior’s lyrics of “you’re in desperate need of some urgent attention” plus interlude chants of “we’re stuck in a raw situation”. Meanwhile the title track Patience Is Strength and Dark Eyed Children showcase Thompson’s impressively individual vocals on top of classic scratchy guitars.

Neither is there anything grave about Funeral Reunion with its uplifting choruses of “Oh my darling, nothing compares to you” already rousing the band’s fiercely loyal live following.

As graduates of the renowned Sheffield Soundclash alongside ‘partners in crime’ the Playground Mafia, the Kings have gained their fanbase and ‘scenester’ reputation through extensive gigging of the city’s venues. And after a two week European tour, appearances at the SXSW and Isle of Wight festivals plus another two slots lined up for the 2011 Tramlines, the former five-piece are starting to gain the recognition they deserve.

The 2010 single The Sequel is a perfectly moulded EP and curtain closer. “Is this a dream, I’m not really sure” Thompson ponders in a soliloquy-like fashion before realising that “it all works out in the end”. The infectious opening riff returns in the chorus accompanied by lashings of hi-hat, creating a wonderful crescendo – which neatly sums up Patience Is Strength.

Rating: 8 out of 10

This review was published by Sheffield Scenester and can be found at: