It’s another night when The Brudenell has two big-draw gigs on simultaneously, meaning the bar is heaving half an hour before doors.
A howl of feedback, snaking bass and ricochet drumming herald the arrival of Feather Trade. A goth / grunge hybrid, the singer’s got vocal grit that invites obvious comparisons to Kurt Cobain, but also less obvious but more accurate comparisons to Ben Gautrey, formerly of The Cooper Temple Clause. Driving riffs define their sound, but they’re interspersed with some quite ordinary 80s radio rock, and it even gets a bit Muse and MSP at times, although the breaks of blandness and occasionally off-key vocals are comfortably rescued by a solid rhythm section. Overall, they’re a good watch: they’ve got songs, they’re entertaining, and tight.
Emerging unannounced, I haven’t a clue who the main support are until later, but Derek Forbes and The Dark are the epitome of 80s bland. They’ve got a springy bass sound and synths in place of guitars. Their rendition of ‘New Gold Dream’ is synthy and insipid (Utah Saints did it so much better). They’d probably have been a revelation in 1983, but it’s 2019 and this is unironic and unimaginative retro recreation. They’re Scottish and have lifted their keyboard action straight off Ure-era Ultravox, and then they throw in Simple Minds’ ‘Lovesong’ and finally, thanks to a mate’s research diligence, the penny belatedly drops: Derek Forbes was the original bassist with Simple Minds. I’m left scrabbling, wondering how much of the set was culled from the early years of Simple Minds’ careers, before deciding I’m not that fussed. I may not be a fan of Jim Kerr’s stadium rock stylings, but the occasional ‘lemme see yir honds!’ is more engaging than this stilted effort.
There’s nothing stilted about Kirk Brandon and his crew, and I won’t deny a certain fanboy excitement about standing just a few feet not only from Brandon, who may be compact in stature but possesses an awesome charisma, but also one of my absolute all-time favourite bassists, Craig Adams. While there are none of the ribcage-rattling four-square thudding grooves that defined his contributions to The Sisters of Mercy in their early years, or the same simple but effective strolling basslines that defined The Mission’s early releases, he’s still impressive in his solidity, and looks to be loving it, too, as do the rest of the band for that matter: Kirk still has the most epic turn-ups, and in many respects, SoD 2019 is more or less an unchanged proposition from maybe 20 years ago. And yet this isn’t simply some steady-rolling nostalgia trip, despite the set-list, as they play ‘One Eyed Jacks’ to commemorate its 35th anniversary.
And so Spear thunder in with the stomping ‘Rainmaker’, and we’re launched straight into a classic album. Side one is the strongest, and it’s back-to-back, non-stop killer. It’s the variety that’s key, paired with the emotional intensity that drives it: ‘Don’t Turn Away’ and even the politically-passionate ‘Young Men’ could easily be insipid in any other hands. ‘Liberator’, side one’s closer is the ultimate rabble-rouser, and kick-starts an energetic over-fifties moshpit that’s got real zeal.
Side 2 may lack the range but packs the power, and the fans are down with this, packing forward and it’s a rush. And never mind the demographic: this is a gig where the fans appreciate the band with a passion, and the band recognise that and reciprocate. And the result is special.