Proletariat played an intimate stripped-back show at Manchester's Rose And Monkey on Wednesday night as a thank you for ticket holders for their upcoming headline show at Gorilla on May 21st. Revealing their next single What Do We Call This Place as well as a surprise cover, they demonstrated a different side to their work than we'd previously seen.
Whilst down at the Albion Rooms in Margate recording at Carl Barat's studio, Proletariat played a stripped-down set that they enjoyed so much that they decided they wanted to do it back closer to home in Manchester and hence the idea for this night was born. Supported by ubiquitous poet Leon The Pig Farmer, who we only caught the last two pieces of after hot-footing it across from another gig, they made the evening feel like a special event and a contrast to their usual high-paced ferocious live sets.
Crammed together on the Rose's tiny stage with Josh limited to a set of pads rather than a full drum kit there's nowhere for them to hide and everything is laid bare for the audience to observe. Thankfully, Proletariat are able to demonstrate that there's more to them than their hit-and-run power when the lights are on and the audience can see the whites of their eyes. Older songs like Derogatory and Go Ahead are stripped back and given new life. The ability for a song to be taken back to its bones and still have an impact is a fundamental sign of the quality of the songwriting and these songs more than pass the test.
Credit for that must go to the musicianship on display. The sound is superb for such a cramped set-up and that allows the real subtleties in Connor's guitar playing to shine through even though he makes it look so effortless. There's a beautiful moment in the final song, Losing Control Is A Beautiful Thing, possibly their finest released song to date, where they stop, then Aaron's bass comes back in, then Josh and finally Connor and James on acoustic and the song heads off to its end. It shows the care and attention that Proletariat pay to details that perhaps they didn't in their first iteration and why their return just over a year ago has been artistically a success as the time off allowed them to decide what they wanted to be and how to do it.
What Do We Call This Place is set to be their next single and we were treated to a sneak preview of the recorded version earlier in the evening. It showcases a depth and richness to James' vocals that are also very apparent tonight and which might surprise casual observers of the band. Their choice of Michael Kiwanuka's Hero turns out to be an inspired one as it fits perfectly for all the reasons we've described. A second cover, Sympathy For The Devil, is equally brave given the legendary status of the track, but they put their own twist on it in a way that bands often neglect to and play too straight when attempting such well-known songs.
The crowd are respectful throughout, listening to what Proletariat are presenting to us and giving them a rapturous response at the end of each track. The band, once they've overcome initial nerves, appear to enjoy the show as much as we did - and have discovered another string to their bow that will serve them well and help to dismiss some of the simple and unwarranted comparisons that often come with being a Mancunian four-piece with a confident swagger.
Proletariat played Go Ahead, Always The Same, Derogatory, You're Free (To Be As We Are), Don't Turn Out The Lights, I'm Not Alright, Take My Hand And Run, Hero, What Do We Call This Place?, Sympathy For The Devil and Losing Control Is A Beautiful Thing.