Opening the evening are Manchester's Tourist Attractions and there's already a healthy crowd in for them and they're treated to a great set. Front man Dan is a charismatic leader and they're a band with a great sense of their own identity - the likes of Silhouette, Blazing Sun and Fade Away have personalities all of their own, dramatic, never standing still and never predictable. They finish with their own take on New Order's Blue Monday, one song you'd think would be a sacred untouchable cow, but they crank up the guitars, it's almost unrecognisible until Dan starts singing and it's a surprising but complete success.
Next up are Glue and we're immediately taken by their uplifting electronic approach that doffs its cap to some of the best 80s alternative pop/rock, but which they've brought kicking into the 21st century. Starting with an instrumental that provides an atmospheric introduction to them, they make clever use of effects on the vocals on the next song to create a wonderfully shimmering dreamy sound, particularly on last year's singles She Said and Shadows. They save our favourite song of their set to the end though as what we think is called Somebody's Watching Me brings their set to a close with the guitars turned up.
The third band on tonight are Wigan's Lyon Road and they take just seconds to win us over. They're a band that wear their hearts on their sleeves, their songs feel vibrant, fresh and uncluttered and vocalist Tom has an impressive and expressive range to his voice that details the emotions and feelings he's singing about. Forthcoming single Something That I Do is a classic example of this, it's a euphoric brilliant three minute perfect pop song and it's followed by You Need To Get Up, an instruction to a friend to leave their home to move on in life, that leaves a similar impact in its wake.
It's the uncluttered simplicity of everything they do that makes leave such a positive impression on our first experience of them. Everything is given the space to breathe, the guitar solos feel quite light touch at points but perfectly in keeping with the rest of the songs in that they don't try and show off and bowl you over with bravado but win you over with the simple quality of the song as they do so effortlessly with latest single Moving and Time. They leave us with the best of the lot though. Circles steps their game up a little further, the guitars are turned up a notch but they never lose that ability they have to seemingly create infectious immediate songs that it's impossible not to fall for.
The room fills up further for Lunar and as they start with an extended intro to Come Home, it's immediately clear why they've picked up a following so quickly. They trade in the kind of riffs that stick in your head the first time you hear them, they've got songs with lyrics that you'll find yourself singing along to in your head away from the gigs and there's a fantastic on-stage chemistry between bassist Christie, guitarist Luke and front man Sam. They make great music, but it's also fun to watch Lunar, something bands often forget is important.
Their second song Girl At Home screams future single out at us, a rhythm that will have people moshing from here to eternity driven along by Max's drums, it's got a breakdown section that arena filling bands would kill for and when Sam and Christie's vocals collide in the chorus, they sound like no other band around at the moment. Their current Showboater is a ferocious two and a half minute blast that really gets the crowd going with that vocal interchange in the chorus and the next song Love And Affection shows they've got a groove to them as well.
They then have an acoustic interlude where Sam and Luke perform a song called One Of A Kind that they only played together for the first time earlier, although if they hadn't told us that we wouldn't have known. The sign that a band is ready to make the step up is their ability to show different sides to their sound - look at the genres that Blossoms straddle effortlessly as a case in point - and this shows that Lunar aren't just a one-trick pony. It's followed by Gonna Get You Down, one of their earliest songs and it's about relationship issues, drinking and releasing emotions set to a big bold guitar riff and, we'll repeat this because it is a big part of what makes Lunar stand out so strongly, the collision of Sam and Christie's vocals. You can dance to it, mosh to it and sing along to it, yet it's so effortlessly uncomplicated in its structure.
Even before they play it, there are people down the front shouting for their debut single Our Way and when it finally arrives as the penultimate song in the set, the crowd goes absolutely mental to it. It's got everything, a simple but infectious chorus that the audience scream back at them, a stunning guitar solo from Luke (who they should probably take the mic off if he's not singing) and it's an invitation to dance. You can see the circle formations on the Ritz dance floor for it now as it's mutated from the studio recording that already feels left behind into a huge sprawling tune.
They finish with a cover of Faithless's Insomnia which drives the whole building to let loose in a sea of red and orange light. We're not usually fans of covers because they're often predictable, but this isn't and it allows them to really go for it. You sort of sense that they don't quite know how to end it and that's part of why it's quite brilliant. No one is letting them go that easily and because they're still building a set of songs, they come back and repeat Our Way and it feels even bigger, even more full on than the first time especially when the solo kicks in.
The response Lunar get at the end is overwhelming. People leave singing along to Our Way which is a massive statement about the band. Whilst the venue wasn't full, and it's a brave move from the promoters taking a chance on putting on a new band in a venue this size, I've seen established bands play to far less in here, but there will be plenty more people claiming that they were at this show should Lunar go on and make the breakthrough that's inevitable if they continue to deliver like this on ever-bigger stages. In a city with a million bands trying to stand out, Lunar are doing just that.
Tourist Attractions are on Facebook and Twitter.
Glue are on Facebook and Twitter.
Lyon Road are on Facebook and Twitter.
Lunar are on Facebook and Twitter. Listen to Showboater and read our chat with front man Sam Carson here.