Sam Smith & Company
Barca Live, Manchester
6th July 2013
- From Heathens To Devils
- Dirty Logic
- The pouring rain is bliss
- Three stripes
- A perfect view
- The escapist
- Some facts
- Twist + Shout
So it’s a baking hot Friday in wonderful down town Madchester.
Summer has finally arrived and the hordes are out soaking up the late afternoon sun. Time for a quick Peroni in The Waterhouse, where I meet up with SD and Yvonne, and then we hop a cab down to Castlefield which is thronged with people off to see The Courteeners. All the trappings of gig centric Manc are there, the touts trying to shift tickets, a gang of lads singing football songs, busy looking stewards, and a young lass slumped over a pool of vomit on a bench as two police officers try to assist her as her worried friend looks on. Over the canal we have Dukes and Barca, which thrive in this sort of weather, not places I would normally venture to, on any night of the week, especially Friday, but this time around Sam Smith & Company are playing a secret gig.
Now I will readily admit I have been a little slow in getting this band. SD has been bending my ear for a while about how good they are, but not until I heard the excellent “From Heathens To Devils” EP was I completely sure I wanted to take some time to listen to Mr Smith and his chaps in the live situation. So when the opportunity arose to catch a show it seemed sensible to attend.
Barca is one of those places that is not necessarily the best venue for live music. Most of the punters are outside supping the over priced booze from plastic glasses, and a constant stream of the young and the restless wander over the canal bridges across Castlefield. A grizzled drunk walks past with a half bottle of vodka much to the distaste of the monied clientele. In terms of the inside we have reasonably sized room but with a low ceiling in the stage area, it’s clear from the outset that Sam at 6′ 3″ is going to have problems, especially given his propensity for waving his Strat around in a Townsend-esque manner.
As has been reported over the years, at many gigs, some of the best ones are in front of a handful of people. This is certainly true of this show. Sam has not been assisted by the sunshine, or the “attraction” of the Courteeners less than a 100 yards away. SD tries to rally the outside masses to come in but they are not to be shifted.
However despite the audience being somewhat small the band put on a great show. All of the new EP is featured and delivered with the same energy that comes across on the recordings. I also get a chance to hear some of Sam’s other material including the excellent “The Escapist”.
What is clear as the gig progresses is that we have here an interesting amalgam of the rock tropes of a Springsteen, with the energy and sometimes bile of an early Clash. Sam is clearly a good front man and his willingness to perform, rather than to just trot out the songs, is to be applauded. What I found interesting was that as the gig progressed, and even more of the small handful of punters wandered off, the drum kit kept collapsing, and Sam rammed his headstock into the ceiling for the third time, that a fair degree of anger began to emerge from the singer/guitarist. He was clearly frustrated but his venom translated into an edgier delivery which added to the performance.
Another notable point is that the band are well drilled and very tight, which in hindsight was impressive given the keyboard player had gone AWOL and it was the new bass players second gig!
If you like hard driving, well performed, rock music with a punk edge and with a charismatic front man then this is the band to catch when they next play around your way.
Smith has all the necessary elements to become a music star, he can sing, he can play well, he has a good band, he knows how to work and audience, and he’s a good looking lad.
All he needs now is an audience. I won’t completely paraphrase Jon Landau from 1974 but what I will say is that lot of Manchester missed out on a good gig on Friday.
Your loss , my gain.
I have a feeling he will become famous in his own right even if the scenesters in Manc are too busy sipping their Chardonnay to notice.
I reckon he’ll be playing the Castlefield bowl in a few years and filling the place.
And if you don’t believe me have a listen to the EP…….
Photos by SD.