Saturday 30 September 2023

Seb Lowe / The Guest List - Manchester New Century Hall - 29th September 2023

Seb Lowe played his biggest headline show to date on Friday night with a sell-out show in front of 1,300 fans at Manchester's New Century Hall. Politically and socially astute, with tunes to back up his poetic bravado, he announced, if it wasn't already clear, that he's a force to be reckoned with and set for bigger and bolder things. Support came from Altrincham's The Guest List.

It's seven months since we first saw The Guest List, just up the hill at Band On The Wall supporting Seb before he doubled his money with this show. The exceptionally positive impression they left us with that night is confirmed here. This is a big stage for a band in its infancy and they own it as if it were their own headline show and they have the front half of the crowd on side even before they've started and you sense that connection grow as their set progresses. 

Their songs make you feel like you know them on first listen, but you can't place them and hours later you're still wracking your brain before the realisation hits that they're not apeing anyone, they're just writing songs that hit home on first listen. There's still development for them to do - the guitar solos are brilliant, the duality of two of them coming together and lifting the songs is powerful and potent - but you can see them coming a mile off. But as they grow as a band that will come with time as their songwriting progresses - it's a journey that most bands that have emerged from this city region have taken in their ascent and The Guest List may well be the next one to tread that path.

Cai is an enigmatic front man, often detached from his bandmates and lost in his own words, not a classic singer in the traditional sense but very much his own man doing his own thing and thus standing out a mile in a city where Gallagher clones roam the small venues. His delivery gives the songs an edge - melodic in their own way, deadpan at times, but with a sense that he's living them. The kids already know their most recent single Steel Police, always a good sign, particularly when you're supporting rather than headlining. There's not been a genuinely great guitar band emerge from round here for a while, but The Guest List are making their play for that.

There's a worrying trend in the Manchester scene at the moment of bands booking bigger ambitious venues and downgrading - often from this very building to Canvas. Seb Lowe sold out Canvas in minutes and upgraded here, and sold this one out. His nationwide run of dates, of which this is the penultimate show, have sold out too, dispelling the oft quoted declaration that bands from Manchester can only really deliver big numbers at home. There's a real sense of anticipation of homecoming and this being a moment of triumph, albeit a staging post on a journey to the really big stages of the city, as the playlist which seems as if it's been stolen from Blossoms plays through seventies and eighties classics to youngsters who know every word of songs released before they were born.

Seb Lowe has the lot. He has the political nous to his songs, there's the ubiquitous "fuck the Tories" chant from the crowd, but it's imbued with an emotional intelligence and deeper understanding of the underlying issues than the easy sloganeering of some of his more successful contemporaries. Songs like Iphone, Terms And Conditions and Ode To Britannia explore the complexities of characters and the situation whilst still having the crowd bouncing around to them. The Education System and set opener Kill Him (He's A Socialist) are more direct but no less pointedly observed. The crowd love him, stomping around, arms held aloft in more tender moments like early song Freak, and bouncing around as the songs build in tempo allowing Seb to step back and let them sing songs back to him.

He's much more than a rabble-rousing troubadour though. The likes of Cavalryman and I Fell In Love With A Talking Head demonstrate the progression he's made from when his short Tik Tok videos announced him to the world a few short years ago and he's turned his confidence on stage to real showmanship. His band have taken the journey with him too. His interactions with violinist Kate, who mouths every word to every song, create the feeling that this is more of a gang that's settled in line-up and ready to take on the world. There's a confidence in the five of them that's grown since Band On The Wall and a world away from Seb's early forays with a band. This stage feels like a stepping stone to much bigger things.

Seb Lowe is on FacebookTwitter and Tik Tok.

The Guest List are on Instagram


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