LIVE REVIEW: The Drums, HMV Institute (Birmingham), 28/11/2011

Nearly a year ago to the week, I saw The Drums at the same venue; touring their debut album. Had I not been at this event, I’d have claimed to anyway. But I was, and this gave me a nice benchmark upon which to base this review.

So the stage is set, literally. The venue is the newly renovated  HMV Institute, an enclave of baroque splendour amongst the rough diamond that is Digbeth.

Impressively punctual support came from Whitechapel noizefuzzgazerz The History of Apple Pie. With a name sweeter than Daphne from Eggheads’ decoupage class, their long drawn-out guitar-laden tracks came as a nice surprise, with a massive nod to bands such as Dinosaur Youth.
Then the semi-familiar Cloud Control came out play, already impressed by the free badge one of their team were handing out on the way in, expectation was high for the Australian 4-piece. A lovely touch, provided these badges were not just handed to the pampered gig-reviewer. The band’s interesting boy/girl dynamic of primal-wails*, sets them apart from many of today’s neo-folk darlings. (*Using the expression ‘primal scream’ may have confused matters) The music was well received, and even achieved murmurs of “Ahhh, I know that one” from sections of the audience.

The crowd was a healthy mix of 16-30somethings donning dresses with frilly-neck and shirts of check. When The Drums arrived on stage, it didn’t take long for the fans to launch a beach ball straight off their hero Jonathan Pierce’s rich, conditioned, hair. I guess if you will dress a bit like a college jock, you will have to deal with a ball at some point in your life. Nevertheless, this kind of tribulation only seemed to invigorate Pierce straight into the action with ‘What you were’ from the new album ‘Portamento.’

After opening with a newie, the crowd were soon treated to “Best Friend” and “Me And The Moon.” – Both greatly received.

Not all too long ago, The Drums were on the verge of splitting up. But with a change of personnel, promoting drummer to guitarist, and a synthman waiting in the wings; the band have an extra dimension. With a non-instrument playing front-man, there is a fair bit of stage to fill, but Jonny’s robo-Jagger-mince certainly does this. As I’ve always said: The only thing worse than a lead-singer who prances around for the whole set, is one that doesn’t.

In terms of the setlist, it is always interesting to see which songs are joined in with, which ones people rush to the bar to and which ones people go to the toilet to. Unsurprisingly, the crowd sang along to Down by water, Forever and ever amen, and surprisingly ‘Days go by’ was singled out by the crowd as an early front-runner from the second album.

So despite beach-balls being thrown at the band in a kind of Derren-Brownian  subliminal “Play the surfing one”, it never cam. A a very brave move, for a band touring their second album.

Maybe it’s a brutal attempt at the culling of fickle fans, like Radiohead’s not playing ‘Creep’ for years.. For the music snobs amongst us, this went down without major disappointment / riot. Lucky for them, they have a music snob doing the reviewing. The more cynical amongst us may draw a passing resemblance between breakthrough single ‘Lets’s go surfing’ and new single ‘Money.’ Playing these too close together may be the musical equivalent of breaking the magicians code.

After some light-foot stamping (not advised in a 103 year old church) they came back on to the minimal, yet haunting Stand by me’-inspired B–side of Best Friend: “Baby, that’s not the point.” The show ended (fittingly) with ‘The future,’ a personal favourite, which combined with my free badge at the start left me on a high.

What self-deprecating ‘Drums fan would end a night and review on such a high, so I should also note that it took me till the end of the gig to realise a can (500ml) of cider is £4.00, whereas  a pint (568ml) is also £4.00  – you do the math(s).

Reviewer: Arran Poultney
Rating: 4/5 


LIVE REVIEW: Hanson, HMV Institute (Birmingham), 27.11.11

Hanson fans are hardcore. Simple as that. With doors opening at 7pm, I approximate a support slot starting about an hour later, so meet my friend next door to the HMV Institute for a quiet drink at just gone 6. By this point the queue of fans stretches beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. While they all have tickets in hand, the fans are there early to make sure they can get close to the stage and stock up on merch (which I later find includes the novel board game “Hansonopoly”).

Post-drink I return to the venue and arrive as support act Meiko takes to the stage. A friendly figure, Meiko boasts a sweet vocal that fits perfectly her brand of acoustic folk pop. While the audience are both warm and responsive the chatty chanteuse, it becomes clear that the hardcore Hanson fans (those with Hansonopoly in tow) are getting impatient for their heroes and the chatter at the end of Meiko’s set starts to drown her out.

Luckily the wait for Isaac, Taylor and Zac is far from a long one. The boys (should I say men? After all they are now all married men and fathers…) come bouncing onto stage and are met with screams and shouts. Hanson lap up the response as they launch into “Thinkin’ ‘Bout Somethin'” with an addictive energy. Within thirty seconds it is apparent that this will be a show to talk about.

Hanson are compelling, natural performers who fill a venue with positive vibes yet lack anything in the shape on an ego. They are simply passionate and gifted musicians whose enjoyment shines through in a way that excites a listener.

Aware that their UK fans know them of old, they ensure that their set covers all bases. While early hits “MMMBop” and “This Time Around” are greeted with sing along appraisal, later material, including the irrepressible “Give A Little” prove just as popular.

Equally important to the evening’s proceedings are the often telling solo slots. While my prejudiced notion was that Taylor was the talented vocalist, both Zac and Isaac prove they warrant an equal share of the spotlight. While Zac left the spine tingling with his tender rendition of  “Use Me Up”, Isaac revisited his early composition, the riotous “River”.

With their set over in what feels like just a few moments, the brothers keep the tempo up and their calls for audience participation are met with huge enthusiasm. As they close with the addictive “If Only”, the boys bounce around on stage and have the whole Institute jumping up even more of a sweat.

Before the song is even finished calls for an encore have started. Hanson do the statutory stage exit but do not tease for long. Their Cheshire grins are proof that they are loving the evening as much as their fans and they launch into a new Christmas composition about sweaters and “Snowed In” classic “Run Rudolph Run”.

The gracious brothers thank the audience and speak to fans as the slow exit commences – however, it appears that the merch desk is the first port of call and barely a soul leaves without the latest album “Shout It Out” and a T Shirt or two…

While I concede I leave empty handed, I have to admit there was a big part of me that was tempted by a T Shirt and a Hansonopoly..

Reviewer: Jeremy Williams
Rating: 5/5 

LIVE REVIEW: Fyfe Dangerfield, HMV Institute, 25.09.10

Fyfe Dangerfield took to the stage for the opening night of Birmingham’s newest music venue. The old Sanctuary and Barfly have been revamped to become the HMV Institute in Digbeth. With a carpeted entrance adorned with chandeliers and Fyfe’s gig  located in the smaller rather aptly named “Library” room, the venue is definitely worth a mention.

The smaller venue adds a more intimate feel to the gig, as Fyfe and co. take to the stage and hammer straight into “Faster than the Setting Sun”. This is live music at it’s best as Fyfe proves his frontman status. It is clear that he feels the music, and it’s hard not to get drawn in as he performs a set list primarily from “Fly Yellow Moon”. This self penned album, was written whilst in the midst of a relationship and then breakup. Although he may lose some of the Guillemots fans when he embraces some of the more tender and heartfelt tracks, “Livewire” and “High in the Tide” in particular, it is still hard not to feel penetrated by Fyfe’s world. His voice almost haunting as it resonates throughout the room.

The more upbeat “When You Walk In The Room” and “She Needs Me” get the crowd jigging along, and provide a happy contrast to the more melancholy tracks. A couple of Guillemots tracks are also sprinkled in for good measure and elicit a cheer from the crowd.

The encore includes Fyfe’s version of “She’s Always A Woman”, a track I suspect many in the crowd were waiting for. One man and a guitar make this a truly special moment.

The hour and half set seems over almost as soon as it’s begun. As he closes with a reprise of his first song, the audience really feel that they have come full circle. With talent like this at their helm, it with eager anticipation that we should await Fyfe’s return to The Guillemots and the release of their next album!

Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Kim Harrell

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