Monday 22 December 2014

Inspiral Carpets / Blossoms / Brown Brogues - Preston 53 Degrees - 21st December 2014

Inspiral Carpets closed their UK tour with a sold-out show at Preston 53 Degrees.  Mixing tracks from their recent self-titled comeback album with classic hits from their back catalogue, they bade farewell to 53 Degrees as a gig venue as it closed as such after last night's show. Support came from Blossoms and Brown Brogues.

Opening the night are Brown Brogues and, as at the Ritz gig in Manchester on Friday, they're on so ridiculously early after doors that people are still trying to get into the venue as they come on and they're perched so precariously close to the front of the small stage you fear they might fall off. For a two-piece they make a huge amount of noise with their drums and guitar combination. Their songs are pretty much all at breakneck speed not pausing for breath, yet never sound repetitive. They, and this two person approach that's becoming more prevalent in emerging bands, might not be everyone's cup of tea, but Brown Brogues are possibly the best exponents of it knocking around the North West at the moment.

We seem to reviewing Blossoms here every few weeks and we make no apologies for that for two reasons.  Firstly they seem to be getting the best support slots with our favourite bands at the moment and secondly because they're becoming one of them in their own right. As they progress through their eight-song thirty minute set you can see the audience moving forward, getting into them and by the time they reach set-closer Blow there are people singing along.

The great thing about them is that they manage to carve and create hooks that sound instantly familiar and which draw you in, but they do so without being copycat or derivative. They remind you of so many great bands without sounding like a copy of any of them and as they develop as a live band, they're crafting a formidable stage presence that isn't just focused on the front man. In addition to the eight songs tonight, of which there isn't a weaker one amongst them, they've also got great songs like Favourite Room, Urge and Madeleine that don't make it into the set so they're building a group of songs to form a future classic debut album.

The newer songs stand out as well, such as Smoke, which hints, subtly mind, at Oasis as it reaches its conclusion, and Blown Rose, probably our favourite, which nods to the lyrical romanticism of The Smiths "The stately homes of England, how beautiful they stand" as Tom sings about life on the road away from a loved one.  They conclude with next year's single Cut Me And I'll Bleed and debut Blow and they've won over a set of new fans tonight, as they have been doing for the last six months.

Tonight is the last show of a year that has cemented the resurrection of Inspiral Carpets. Whilst 2012 and 2013 were in some ways reintroducing (or introducing in many cases) Stephen Holt back into the Inspirals fold, this year has been about this five-piece line-up putting out their first record for twenty years and taking it out on the road. The reception for the new songs can only have exceeded expectations as large sections of the crowd appear to have and get the album.

There's very much an end of tour feel to tonight's set and the camaraderie that's developed by grown men spending three weeks on a tour bus is very much in evidence. Musically they bounce off each other, particularly Graham Lambert and Martyn Walsh, probably the two least celebrated members of the band, whose guitar and bass duel each other as they let loose on the new songs that have been written by all five of the band. Naturally Clint Boon's Farfisa organ leaves its indelible mark on most of the songs, but to focus solely on it when evaluating the Inspirals' live show would underplay how important the others, including Craig Gill's drumming, are to the sound. As for front man Stephen Holt, the new material allows him to stamp his personality on the band's present as well as his interpretation of the past, his booming vocals filling the room and leaving no one with any illusion that he doesn't belong up there.

The set is a mix of old and new. Singles You're So Good For Me, Spitfire and the January 2015 release Let Me Down more than hold their own against their vast catalogue of hit singles, some of which get an airing tonight. And, more surprisingly given the weight of the band's history, the other tracks off the album - set opener Monochrome, A To Z Of My Heart and Calling Out To You - stand tall too and this is due to the fact they've reverted to that direct style of the early years up to their debut Life that won them so many admirers and was the peak of their commercial existence. Live, they're exciting and invigorated, despite the Preston crowd being a little subdued throughout. Clint's incredibly chatty throughout and responsive to audience heckles to the point of amusing his band mates, particularly when he introduces This Is How It Feels as a new dub-step influenced song.

There's no doubt that 2014 has been a huge well-deserved success for Inspiral Carpets. It's difficult for bands to come back after twenty years and release new material without endless comparisons to the past, but they've done it with possibly the best record of their career whilst at the same time confirming Stephen Holt's place back in the band. Reinvigorated, loving what they do and appealing to old and new fans, the future looks bright indeed as they take a well-earned rest at the start of 2015.

Inspiral Carpets played Monochrome, Joe, You're So Good For Me, Two Worlds Collide, She Comes In The Fall, A To Z Of My Heart, This Is How It Feels, Spitfire, Move, Sackville, Find Out Why, Calling Out To You, I Want You, Let You Down, Human Shield, Dragging Me Down and Saturn 5.

Inspiral Carpets official website is here.   They are also on Twitter and Facebook.

Blossoms' official website can be found here.  They are also on Facebook and Twitter. You can read our interview with Blossoms from August here.

Brown Brogues' official website can be found here and they are also on Twitter and Facebook.

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