Monday 27 February 2017

Matter Of Mind / The K's / James Holt / Lunar / Stillia / Altar Flowers / Kevill - Manchester Sound Control To Major Tom - 25th February 2017

The death of David Bowie last year prompted Sound Control to run an all-dayer with bands performing covers of their favourite tracks of his plus some of their own. The event was such a success that they decided to recreate it this year with a new set of bands in the venue loft and DJs in the middle bar.  We caught Matter Of Mind, The K's, James Holt, Lunar, Stillia, Kevill and Altar Flowers.

Stillia are first up for us and they set the tone for the day with an impressive performance that starts off with their current single Let Me In, which is followed by its even more impressive planned follow-up 4am from the album they've recently been recording. Their full-on assault is perfect for their cover of Rebel Rebel, a storming version that gets the early bird Bowie heads applauding like crazy at the end. They finish their set with another new song called Cold Coffee that suggests that album might be one of the wild card surprises of the year. They make no apologies for their direct rock and roll approach and they've got the confidence and the songs to back it up.

Next up is Sam Carson from Lunar, accompanied by guitarist Luke for the last two of the four songs as he dashed to the gig straight from work. Sam opens with a cover of Modern Love and, despite having to contend with the booming bass from the disco down below, makes it his own with a thoughtful simple reinterpretation. He takes the opportunity to reveal a new song called New Endeavour, another in a batch of recently written tracks that demonstrate his progression as a song-writer and plays another one Runaway for only the second time which confirms that thought. One of his older songs Love And Affection is sandwiched in between them and is another example of why Lunar, once they get things in place, will stand out from the crowd with songs that don't just go full throttle for the jugular but have wider range and loftier ambitions.

Kevill's set up with keys, bass and electric drums is a very different one to what else we witness today and it sets a dramatic soundscape for him to deliver vocals with a rich soulful depth to them. He finishes with his cover of Life On Mars which sees him depart from behind his bank of keyboards and give the song his own treatment.

We only catch the last two songs of Earlstown four-piece The K's who've taken some time out in 2016 and come back with line up changes. We're impressed by them, Sarajevo and Dacton and Wanderella are both ambitiously expansive in scale and with front man Jamie on fine form they look and sound ready for taking on the world this year.

Next up is James Holt and performing solo he also has to contend with the chatterers and bass from downstairs, but, once he gets started on his own interpretation of Starman, people move forward. His take on Sound And Vision is one of the highlights of the day, stripping back layers and leaving a beautiful raw shell behind. His two own tracks Alone Again And Always and the Brian Eno-recommended Whatever Happened To John show why he's one of the city's most underrated singer-songwriters with an articulate style that shies away from laddish bravado towards something more thoughtful.

Altar Flowers have no such issues with chatter as they turn everything up and drown everything out. Their take on Bowie's Fashion is laced with all the imposing dramatic impact of their own material. Never short of confidence on stage, front man Jay delivers the songs with the passion and urgency of a man possessed by the spirit of the tunes his band mates are creating. They might be outsiders on the local scene, but there's no doubting their ability to deliver live.

Matter Of Mind are the last band we catch and their three song set makes the busy crowd sit up and take notice. Starting with new song Stay they demonstrate that they're already at the point where they can play big rooms and fill them out with their big forceful sound. Their Bowie cover is Moonage Daydream and, like their cover of Amy Winehouse's Back To Black, they adapt the style of the song to theirs without losing the intrinsic brilliance of the original. They top it off though with new single Far Too Wrong, which is out this Friday. It's got a staggering self-assurance for such a fledgling band and a chorus of "I couldn't be more different if I tried" that's tailor made for thousands of people to relate to and sing together. The bigger stage allows Jordan and Rob the space to move around too and let loose in a way smaller venues don't. None of this is lost on the audience either who stop talking because they know they're watching a band with the potential to go all the way.

Matter Of Mind are on Facebook and Twitter.

Lunar are on Facebook and Twitter.

Altar Flowers are on FacebookTwitter and Soundcloud.

James Holt is on Facebook and Twitter.

Stillia are on Facebook and Twitter.

Kevill is on Facebook and Twitter.

The K's are on Facebook and Twitter.

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