Far to The Madding Crowd

It’s cold.

It’s the second gig in a week, a bit of a rarity for me.

It’s Saturday night. There’s three choices, The Speed of Sound album launch in Levenshulme, The Things EP launch in Manchester centre, or The Madding Crowd EP launch in Moston. We opt for the latter.

A Siberian chill has settled on Eccles, whenever I go out to gigs these days the weather conspires against me. A quick pint in the Albert Edward and then a long cab ride up to Moston. A place I haven’t ventured to in a good while. In a former life I spent hours wandering these streets, it seems a dim and distant memory. Things have changed with a new football stadium opposite the Miners Estate. The Estate looks the same as it did thirty five years ago and the Arts and Social Club is also something out of the last century, the faded decadence of a W.M.C. with punk posters on the wall, very old Manchester. There’s a good mixture of people here, old and young. They have Joseph Holts bitter at £2.50 a pint, a good price, but double the price of the pint in the Albert Edward. Not sure how that works.

The Sam Smith story has been told elsewhere on these pages. It’s been a convoluted last 12 months or so with the Franco Bandini persona being put away for a while. There was mention of The Parish Church Fire coming back but that didn’t quite emerge for this gig, so it’s Sam with piano, and acoustic guitar, playing stripped back and emotional songs. There’s a couple of Bandini songs, a few “& Company” numbers, and some new material. He reflects on Fidel’s passing by suggesting  possible Clash cover before the gig but demurs, instead he plays a brain flipping version of Islands in the Stream. He pours his heart and soul into the music, as he always does. This music deserves a wider audience, I’ve said that before, but it does. There’s a new found maturity and confidence about Sam tonight, but he needs to get more gigs, more exposure, perhaps he needs a band to really get the message across, but tonight he does it all on his own and he does it well. He ends with Born to Run. All in all most satisfying.

I’m not normally a big fan of live poetry but Genevieve L Walsh captures my attention with rapid delivery, a tumble of interesting words, maybe too many ideas and concepts for my beer addled brain to take in. But there are sections which really grab the attention, you smile and nod in encouragement with the message that is delivered. She’s funny, intelligent, biting and sometimes angry. It’s great stuff and provides the right sort of balance between Sam’s set and what is to follow.

I’ve not seen The Madding Crowd before. I am told before they start that they are great live. They are.  Ben Corry is an electric front man, he is a hyperactive mix of Iggy Stooge, Bowie and John Lydon. But I can’t hear the vocals. It’s either my dodgy ears or the sound engineer can’t cope with the dynamics of the band. It does eventually settle down but the first fifteen minutes or so is lost to me. Dominic Corry is as hyperactive as Ben, leaping on and off the stage, whirling like a dervish and ripping all sorts of sounds from his guitar. Claud Corry is a motionless figure for most of the night, sat on the floor, laying down a solid bass to the set. The revelation is Sav Patel who is one of the best drummers i’ve seen in a while with a whole selection of interesting tricks up his sleeve, one to watch out for in future I would suggest. The new EP forms the key parts of the set with the excellent “Sinking Low” being the stand out on the evening, Patel’s impressive stick work,  muscular guitar and Ben’s football chant vocal acrobatics morphing the basic blues of the song into something special. With a lengthy set of nigh on two hours the band give the crowd a comprehensive show including some of the more memorable moments from their back catalogue. A band to watch out for in the future.

I get a copy of the EP which will be featured on this weeks Aural Delights podcast.

It’s even colder outside but the heat generated by the gig keeps me warm until I get home.

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