The Lottery Winners played their biggest headline show to date on Thursday night at a sold-out Albert Hall in Manchester that the four-piece had eating out of the palms of their hands. Tears, singalongs and a celebration of an outsider band taking the long road to success made it one of the most heartwarming evenings we've spent at a gig in a long time. Support came from Lois and Andrew Cushin.
Lois opens proceedings after a DJ set by Clint Boon who plays between all bands tonight. The West Yorkshire vocalist has two singles to her name this year - The Way You Are and Twist In The Wind - and takes time between songs to explain the meanings behind them, whether it being forced to grow up quickly in a misogynistic world or losing someone close to her, and it's clear that her music, and dancing round the big stage, is a cathartic process for her, joy and release from the darkness. With a band that delivers an eighties sounding feel to these songs her vocals fill the room impressively for someone with such a small body of recorded work behind her and The Lottery Winners crowd are very appreciative of her half-hour set.
Andrew Cushin follows and he's certainly not lacking in confidence or overawed by the size of the room and crowd. His love of Noel Gallagher, who he's had the fortune to work with on Where's My Family Gone that finishes the set, is very evident, but he stamps his own personality across a set of anthemic songs that make it easy to connect with them. Guitars are turned up in the mix and his vocal, confident and strident, emerges dead centre on the likes of recent single You're Free. The Albert Hall crowd love him and it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to imagine him playing rooms of this size on his own in future.
It's The Lottery Winners night though and nothing will ever take this away from them whatever they go on to next, and if Thom's repeated question / statement of intent is anything to go by it'll be the Apollo at some point next year. He's moved to tears at a number of points by the sheer overwhelming nature of the reaction of the audience. Katie is too and even Rob cracks at one point and Joe's too far back on the drums for us to tell. The sheer emotional power of a band that started in Leigh over a decade ago and looked destined for half that time to be one loved by those who stumbled across their simple emotional uplifting songs but ignored by the industry because of a perceived lack of cool making this step up and doing it with such seeming ease makes you feel that the good will out despite the barriers put up in their way. We've seen some huge names in the Albert Hall, but we've never seen such a unanimous and total outpouring of love and joy from front to back, top to bottom, than we witness tonight.
Thom's developed from a front man who wouldn't shut the fuck up to the point of turning people off their music to a genuine star when he's on stage. They've done the hard miles, supporting everyone and anyone when conventional wisdom might suggest that they should headline more of their own shows, but it's worked perfectly for them. It may have been a longer road, but there's no denying them the success they've craved and worked so hard for over the years. "This is everything I've ever dreamt of, happening now" Thom tells us at one point, almost in tears again, and the whole room's heart melts a little. They haven't forgotten those who supported them at the start too - Thom's gran is up on the balcony, living her best life, and gets a name check a couple of times, their manager Tristan is brought up in the encore and introduced to the crowd. It feels very much like a family and a community they've fostered and it's beautiful.
They've got the songs to back up their elevated status too, although that was never in doubt even in the earliest days. They start with Meaning Of Life and finish with 21 and at times Thom almost doesn't need to sing other than the first line as the audience take over. Start Again, Much Better, Little Things, Favourite Flavour and Elizabeth are gloriously uplifting and challenge you not to sing along even if you're hearing them for the first time, such is their immediacy. The songs become a release for the audience as much as they are for their creators. Katie is given her moment to sing too, her voice beautiful enough to be a lead singer in her own right, particularly on Sunshine, while, keeping to a tradition, Rob is bullied into singing a cover of Robbie Williams' Angels that shows there's (at least) three great vocalists in the band. They strip Overthink Everything down to just an acoustic guitar and Thom and Katie and it feels like a collective therapy session to a sea of lit-up phones.
They encore with a cover of Fairytale Of New York with long-term friends brought up on stage and Caravan Of Love before finishing on 21. You sense though that they never want this night to end and neither do the audience. This felt like a celebration of the outsider breaking through, unable to be ignored or put down any more and blossoming without having to compromise who or what they are. They bring people together to celebrate who they are and what they stand for and the love in the room is the most welcome antidote to all the shit that goes on in the world and reminds you of the simple healing power that music and the connections it makes can have. And it feels like they might now be unstoppable.