Words – Matt Plummer: The Bread Shed, Manchester ( support from Bastette and Shape Of Water)
Photos – Marty Moffat: The Patriot, Crumlin (Bad Touch, Piston, The 501’s)
What a bloody brilliant evening. Here ends the review. Ok, maybe I do need to write more, but to be fair, everything else is kinda just expanding on that point; three excellent bands performing in a lovely sized and well presented venue in a city that I love, a gig which has been rescheduled more than any other I’ve been to! This is possibly the fifth rescheduled date. It was one of those gigs booked and announced in support of the *new* (now two years old) album Kiss The Sky, before a pandemic made the last two years feel like a very short but confusing decade of uncertainty, misery and determination. Chatting to a few people last night there was a steely resolve and optimism about the state of play. Gigs are back, tours are being completed and Bad Touch are finally making good on their promise to play The Bread Shed.
SHAPE OF WATER
First up is the very interesting and unique Shape of Water. There was an excellent use of backing tracks to embellish and deepen the already strong sound of the pounding three piece. Bands using backing tracks have often received a bad rap and I do understand the anger or disappointment when bands hide behind them, yet Shape Of Water uses them in such a way that it broadens the auditory spectrum of what the audience hears rather than simply doubling the sound of the band. The only frustration I felt was the extra vocal harmonies; guitarist, Luca De Falco proved he could sing harmonies and do the backing vocal role, so it would be nice to hear more of that rather than the track. Speaking of Luca, there were two beautiful Telecasters being slung round by this giant but the deft, delicate touch when needed helped showcase the dynamic range of the band, which was brilliant.
A well utilised talking point was the ROLI synth keyboard attached to the bass of Rox Capriotti; used creatively and appropriately to enhance the sound rather than dominate, a sub bass frequency glissando is a surprisingly satisfying noise, “burrr-whooooob”.
We bore witness to the first live rendition of Mr Sandman, a dangerous, daring and unique cover of the light and catchy track by The Chordettes, well executed and memorable. Songs like the finale, The World Is Calling Me soared; an excellent sign off. As an example of how well the night went, the only notable, or even noticeable, problem of the evening was a cymbal falling over during the last song, although if you didn’t see it, you wouldn’t have heard any difference, a situation very well dealt with.
How long have I been waiting to see this band?! Multiple times I have tried and failed to get to a Bastette show but, the stars hadn’t aligned properly until now. What a night to see them as well! Full force, hair flowing, riff laded onslaught; nice. We were treated to new tracks in a stellar ‘best of’ set list. The stage is starting to look a bit small at this point, not so much because Bastette are a five piece as apposed to the three piece Shape Of Water, more because of the amount of personality crammed onto the stage. Caroline is becoming a real commanding presence on stage, captivating attention and conducting proceedings with an effortless sass. That being said, there was space enough for interaction, posturing and an excellent use of space by the band as a whole. Eóin and Sam found room for some face to face dual guitar harmonising, the band as a collective able to ebb and flow to allow space, room and freedom to each other. Although, I am eager to see what a headline Bastette on a larger stage would be able to achieve!
The sound of the band was complemented further by the presence a large number of Caroline’s Queens, a group of vocal super fans and friends congregated on stage left dedicated to cheering, screaming and singing in all the right places.
The sound quality of the entire evening was on point, lots of clarity and not so loud that it became muddy. This allowed the wonderful tone of the instruments to shine through. The drums sounded immense and Eóin’s guitar in particular, a Les Paul through a Wah pedal into a Vox amp which sounded ready to burst into flames, sounded truly wonderful. The guitar work in general was a joy to watch as it was a rare thing that the two guitars played the same thing. Many bands fall into a habit of simply having two guitars double up, playing the same parts, yet the harmonised counterpoint of Bastette works beautifully, especially when the bass of Patrick is added to the mix! It really opened up the sound and made the sonic register massive.
Oh and of course, the hair flick/swish game was on point. Bald man jealousy triggered.
Tough acts to follow. I always love events that have multiple great bands on the bill for two main reasons; value for money and it forces everyone to up their game and really bring the big show.
Bad Touch did not disappoint. The most recent time the show was rescheduled was due to Stevie (vocalist) having a bout of the ‘rona. Immediately after the ten day isolation was over, they continued the tour with multiple shows in a very short space of time. For a recovering singer, the toll on his voice was hard. He had some worries about returning to the stage as he had been nursing himself back to health but his voice had been suffering. Years of love and dedication to his craft potentially at risk. From the perspective of an audience member, there was no evidence of any reticence and I would hope that all of Stevie’s worries have been allayed. Strength, clarity and experience were all present in spades also, there’s always an inexplicable air of a Gospel preacher when Stevie hits his groove.
From the word go there was energy and presence which brought the vibe back up. I, like many, had been at work before the gig and to be honest, I was feeling fairly spent as I drove to Manchester. Despite that, the energy was infectious and irrefutable, however the careful pacing of the set allowed space and time to breathe, digesting the superb old and new track listing, another ‘best of’ set.
Songs like Strut, 99% and the fantastic cover of the Alanis Morrisette classic One Hand In My Pocket were an absolute showcase. A band in perfect sync, delivering on every expectation including the using of top class vocal harmonies, which in my humble opinion adds so much to a band’s sound.
From the ego trip guitar solo, to the slightly unsteady ascent up a speaker cabinet or even the colourful suit, “woven by eight gypsies over the course of twelve years”, there was a self aware yet unapologetic desire to please, perform and deliver the headline show. By the end of the set I found myself thinking, not only is the stage too small now, the venue is too; the power and scale of the sound needed a physically bigger space to resonate in.
I find it difficult to single out different members to praise, it was one cohesive unit, despite the drum breaks, funky bass solos, soaring vocals and exemplary guitar work, it blended into one sound without conflict. If you were unsure whether to get to a show on this rescheduled section of tour, I couldn’t advise strongly enough; do it.
Once again, bald man jealousy was triggered, Stevie seems even hairier than before, somewhere between Cousin It and Mufasa; very impressive.
If this review is too wordy, I will leave you with this. As I left, there was an old boy talking to his mate and I overheard him say, “That was the best f@&%*!g gig I’ve been to in ages.”