Friday 20 February 2015

The Sundowners / The Jade Assembly / She Drew The Gun / HAPI - Manchester Night And Day - 19th February 2015


A four-band line-up, each very different in their own right, thrilled a packed Night And Day Cafe. Headliners The Sundowners fought illness, in the form of co-vocalist Fiona losing her voice, and against all the odds demonstrated what a versatile and fabulous live band they are.

Opening up the evening are the unusually titled HAPI. An enthusiastic, unfeasibly young four-piece they've already developed a robust stage presence that will serve them well as their songwriting develops. Their front man, Alistair, has an engaging personality that brings the audience to them and coupled with their knack of producing a killer hook in most of the songs that they play, they're definitely a band we'll be watching out for.

She Drew The Gun are a band we've had our eye on for a while and we made forthcoming single If You Could See our Track Of The Day. Tonight Louisa and her accompanying guitarist are beset by technical issues including pretty non-existent lighting and a Night And Day crowd that seemed that more interested in their own voices than those on stage.  Despite that though the five songs we hear showcase a great deal of promise and closing track Poem, which is, strangely enough, a poem set to music shows an intelligent social and political commentary that's sadly lacking in so much music these days. They'll play better gigs in more appropriate and welcoming surroundings and we'll be there. The single is out on Monday.

The Jade Assembly have brought along their own Jade Army. We've somehow managed to avoid seeing them before (unintentionally we might add) but they manage to get the crowd going with their brand of full-on heartfelt rock. Their growing reputation is built on breaking out of the pitfalls that four lads playing guitar music often fall into and sounding like a rehash of something that we've heard so many times before.

Front man John Foster has a mightily impressive set of lungs on him and bounces off the energy that's coming from the crowd and has an exceptionally personable style, dedicating a song to his wife in the middle of a verse. It's refreshing to see a band create that bond and in their forthcoming single and final song of the evening, One Last Time, they have a big track in the making with a sing-along chorus to kill for. We won't leave it as long to see them next time.

Immediately noticeable in The Sundowners' first two songs, Hunter and Back To You, we notice something's wrong as Fiona isn't singing. She explains to us that she's suffering from a sore throat so bad that she can hardly talk. Like troopers though, they don't pull the gig which they could have perfectly understandably done, but they deliver us a unique show with Niamh taking on the majority of vocal duties with Fiona occasionally joining in, particularly on tracks like Hummingbird, where the interaction between the two different vocal styles.

The thing is though if you didn't know that this wasn't their normal set up you wouldn't be able to tell. Fiona prowls the stage, hair shaking, tambourine shaking, cajoling the other members of the band to crank the noise up further. Niamh does a fantastic job covering Fiona's parts as well as her own, even on songs like I Don't Need You that Fiona normally leads. Those gorgeous harmonies between the two get replaced in the main by a rougher, harder sound, but it doesn't destroy the set in the way it would for most lesser bands.

The set is based around their wonderful self-titled debut album that came out earlier this month, the summery vibes of the record are still in evidence, but the live sound is beefed up, particularly with guitar amps turned up and some stunning fret and pedal work from Alfie. Despite all the adjustments they've had to make tonight, they still put on a formidable set. Back To You, the aforementioned Hummingbird and the set-closing Medicine are the highlights, before they come back for an impromptu encore.

Hopefully The Sundowners will be back in town soon with Fiona's voice functioning as it should, but tonight we witnessed a unique set from them, every bit as enjoyable as when we've seen them before, but with a different slant on some of the songs.

The Sundowners' website can be found here.  They are also on Facebook and Twitter.

The Jade Assembly's website can be found here. They are also on Facebook and Twitter.

She Drew The Gun are on FacebookTwitter and Soundcloud.

HAPI are on Facebook and Soundcloud.

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