With Ellen Smith, Jo Rhead and Joby and the Roses
Bar 1:22, Huddersfield
Rating: Do I even need to bother?
Look at my dedication. I should be revising for my last exam, but instead here I am. After losing approximately half of our American contingent before we'd even left Manchester, we arrived in Huddersfield and realised that we didn't know where we were going. Classic case of "I thought you looked this fucking place up?" whilst standing outside the station ensues. A quick call to France later, and we were on our way (yes, we do have a French Connection- mystery!). By the time we got there, Joby and the Roses were already going. It was pretty much your standard well-executed folk guitar playing, albeit with absent violinist, so I don't know how much that would have added to their sound. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that Mr. 'Joby' was the vocalist; this being the case, Mr Joby has an exceptional voice. Then again, he'd have to, to keep his own against Mr. Barnes.
After Joby & co., we were in need of some food, so we popped off for some fast food and a pint at Spoons (got an excellent stout called Porter's; 6.5%, and a snip at £1.95, but I digress). By the time we got back, we'd somehow missed Jo Rhead, and Ellen Smith was getting herself set up on the stage. I'm a little pushed for time, so I'm going to resort to hackish music journalism here: her voice was reedy, perhaps sensual, and emotive. Right so I'm guessing you've basically got the sound in your head now. Her songs were good, but those without harmonica were perhaps a little texturally uniform- I seem to spend a lot of my life seeing acoustic acts, so I would say that use of dynamics is a rare skill, but a tremendous boon to the artist if it can be effectively employed. Never mind though, because Ellen's actually in a band called Ellen and the Escapades where this isn't an issue. Either way, it was good enough to make me part with cash for their new single-about the same amount as a pint, in fact- that's opportunity cost, people!
Finally, after a brief soundcheck (where Charlie slotted in the riff from Amplifier's 'Panzer'), the band were ready to go. Coming on-stage to 'A City Built', the band then played most of the new album, Geekk (as one would expect, really). My main preoccupation- which I think the rest of the room did not share- was staring fixedly at Charlie's drummer as he nailed every single beat perfectly, even though he was playing to a click track. My best friend is a drummer, so I'm pretty knowledgeable about the instrument, and really I couldn't tear my eyes away. However, I'm aware that nobody else but me probably gives two shits about drums, so I'd better say something about the rest of the band. From his 'electronic Jeff Buckley' solo show, Charlie and the Geekks have transformed; now, if crude comparisons are needed, they are kind of like Oceansize covering Thom Yorke's solo stuff. I think.
As equally as from the music, I think the Oceansize comparison could well spring from the way Charlie now handles himself onstage. Gone is the shy boy-that-then-explodes-into-dramatic-performance, and instead we're confronted with Charlie the frontman. Guitar at about the same height as Mike Vennart, he even does most of his singing standing on one leg; but I might be the only one that's noticed this. Whatever, it's a confident, even aggressive delivery that's unfamiliar to those that have seen him before. Making a point of playing guitar on 'Degas Dancer' and 'This Boy Blind' paints them in a whole new light than the album versions, and for 'Snakes, Ladders and Aeroplanes' the distorted screaming is done by a guy wading into the audience- it really is a completely different atmosphere. Obviously, my favourites were always going to be 'Geekk' and 'Final Call', but in all fairness there was a remarkably high standard throughout, and Charlie ends his set on a stool playing his guitar behind his head. Fantastic.
Coming on for an encore, Charlie returns alone and plays 'Bedroom'. Having earlier thanked Amplifier for all their help over the past year (I notice a grinning Neil Mahoney over one shoulder), all that remains is a dedication to his late mother. After throwing the mic across the stage, Charlie strolls offstage, hopefully confident that a new chapter in his musical career has begun.One of the lads observed that his voice is less at the head of proceedings than before, but the band more than makes up for it; there's a new drive, depth and power here that could just take them all the way.
Nights like tonight are what music is all about. Simple.
Charlie and his band are headlining Let's Kill Music at Saki Bar on Wednesday the 9th of June in Manchester. It's £4otd or £3 w/flyer (on the Facebook page). The photos used here are (c) Hali Santama