By Guest Rock At Night Contributors, Janet and Jolyon Armstrong
The Band on the Wall in Manchester UK boasts more than great drink and better music; it boasts a time machine in the form of a front door. Upon entering, one is met by the faces of legends, their pictures packed so tightly they appear to actually be the wall rather than placed upon it, a pleasing metaphor, one that has the great bands that once played on The Wall now enshrined as the walls of the venue themselves. Moving forward now, towards the bar, the pictures appear to stare at each other from across the room, possibly sharing guitar techniques or lamenting the absence of the younger generations as we walk under their gaze.
A sharp left brings us to the stage, an only-slightly-dark area with tables and chairs, though the lights were dimmed further and the chairs rendered useless before long, as one-by-one The Electric Stars strode on stage and claimed it as theirs by beginning with their shameless glam rock ‘Not Man Enough’, a new instrument added at the end of each heel-stomping bassy motif, until the lead singer comes through the side curtain to his mic and calls us “the greatest venue in Manchester.”
The Electric Stars play their music with an unbridled sense of identity, enforcing their control of the stage with the captivating ‘Beautiful Music for Beautiful People’, thoroughly introducing the audience to Jason Edge, the lead singer. Jason sings with a clarity and confidence that only comes from knowing that the music he sings is his own as he punctuates instrumentals with wordless “ow”s that sound more like timely explosions of emotion than planned lyrics.
Louise Turner, taking a night off from her own successful recording career as ‘Turner’ to add both style and her distinctive beautiful voice to the brilliant ‘The Only Lover Left Alive’, its chorus will leave you cursing its catchiness. While the music is reminiscent of late 60’s early 70’s, with no direct tributes or throwbacks The Electric Stars shine brightly unclouded by nostalgia. Their album ‘Sonic Candy Soul’ radiates personality, taking the best bits from late 60s while still being new and for the now.
Standing applause met the arrival of Badfinger before even striking a note. The drummer was the first to speak with a sincere “are we ready lads”, before opening the set with ‘Just a Chance’ an excellent rocky number that would not have been out of place on a Who album. The song gifted to them by Paul McCartney came next: ‘Come and Get It’. It is late sixties rock boiled down to its very addictive base elements. After a brief on the television series Breaking Bad comes ‘Baby Blue’, a warming triple-vocal wonder with excellent ear worming motifs.
The bittersweet ‘I Won’t Forget You’ was a sobering moment in the set, as lead singer Bob Jackson laments the deaths of Ham and Evans by suicide. The set then takes a gently uplifting tone as the swinging appeals to human decency of ‘In a Different World’ and ‘Here Comes the Sun’ is followed by ‘Take It All’, a slow and powerful recognition that success means passing some friends by. ‘Lonely You’ was a joy to listen to, a masterpiece of soft pop that left us swinging in its wake of the long outro it deserves.
Rock At Night Guest Contributors–Janet and Jolyon Armstrong: A mother and son writing team based in Manchester GB. Janet is a graduate of Manchester Met university in Literature and Creative Writing. Jolyon is a talented young writer following a career in education.