After a period of absence, ‘Twisted Wheel’ return to Manchester for a highly anticipated homecoming gig, dishing out a stage commanding performance that a completely packed crowd will not soon forget. Prior to tonight’s gig, I was acutely aware of this band more from a status point of view rather than the actual music itself, but they are a band that have more often than not been strongly advised. They famously supported ‘Oasis’ at Heaton Park and have had connections with Paul Weller in the past, but that had been the extent of my knowledge until the news of a tour and a new album was confirmed. The original line-up is no more, and since 2010 two new members, Eoghan Clifford (drums) and Stephen Evans (guitar) have been more than capable of filling the void left a couple of years earlier. Singer Jonny Brown remains the charismatic driving force behind the band’s unique sound, song writing and ingenious and enchanting lyrics. After overcoming personal issues, Jonny has been reinvigorated by a renewed need and desire to create music the way he always has, eventually leading to the recording of new album ‘Do It Again’, the follow up to 2009 debut album ‘Twisted Wheel’. This tour and tonight would see ‘Twisted Wheel’ play everything from their back catalogue and new album, with Jonny previously stating they’re going to be on for a mouth watering hour and a half.
The venue had now become full to capacity, evident of a sell out, and support band ‘Deadbeat Echoes’ march onto the stage, unfazed by the energy the crowd emits. They launch into their first song, ‘Forces’ and it quickly becomes obvious why they are supporting ‘Twisted Wheel’, playing high tempo songs with an energetic dynamic that matches the crowd’s intensity. The songs are frightening, full of an edge sharper than a hunting knife such is its heavy and fierce tenacious approach. They merge garage and punk with a blend of psychedelia by using pedals in the guitar playing to create a seminal background echo that shatteringly vibrates off the walls, making it seem like an out of control train is veering off the track such is their ability to push the boundaries with pulsating veracity. They play ten songs in under 30 minutes, quickly wanting to get their point across in short, sharp bursts of electric song writing and classic guitar riffs. This is certainly a band I’ll be seeing again, and I’ll be highly recommending anyone else to do the same.
With the mood building inside ‘Sound Control’, the fans create a football match type atmosphere by singing songs about Man Utd and Man City, but all in all its a salute to pure Mancunian music and culture. Continuous chants of “Wheel, Wheel, Wheel” fill the air as the expectancy rises. In my time as a journalist reporting within such small venues, I’ve never experienced anything quite as dramatic as this, resembling a mini ‘Oasis’ gig, or the sorts of gigs they did before they exploded onto the scene, perhaps the omen being that history may be repeating itself. Eventually they appear to a barrage of cheers and chants, not needing any band introductions, just getting right down to business, opening with tracks that influenced a devout following from the debut album. They’re immediately explosive and fiery, twisted and edgy, and the crowd embrace it by shouting every lyric that deafens the venue. Crowd surfing takes place as absolute pandemonium grace those crazy enough to enter the realms of the first twenty rows or so. There’s no other way to describe the scenes, just pure fuckin’ mental hedonism, which as music lovers, we love to see!
The band are in fine form, playing as if this is the last show they’ll ever give, tirelessly working and vigorously putting across their quirky and addictively catchy lyrics with thunderous instrumental melodies. It’s difficult to answer the question of what genre this is. It’s punk, it’s garage, it’s indie, it’s mod, it’s rock n roll, it’s alternative, but more importantly it’s refreshingly unique and undoubtedly sublime, merging all aspects of diverse band music. The lyrics are witty, weird and fascinatingly nonsensical, but undeniably imaginative, and that’s what gives them a charm beneath the raw and rough exterior, but it unquestionably captures people’s imaginations and they can easily relate to them.
An hour or so in and Jonny is briefly left alone onstage, armed only with his electric guitar, still playing at the same rate of truth and passion as if the band were behind him, keeping the atmosphere and tempo of the show at its most constant intense point. His vocal is beautifully strong and northern, placing such emphasis on a broad accent that we can all connect with in this part of the world, which gives every song that extra alluring edge of charisma and magnetism. The band eventually reconvene and continue with the same grit that has surrounded the show so far. The highlights are the famous older songs such as ‘You Stole the Sun’ that teasingly appears to end but carries on for further choruses, appeasing the crowd’s will to soar and scream. The timeless ‘Strife’, debut single, ‘She’s A Weapon’, ‘Lucy the Castle’, and ‘We Are Us’ are highlights from the first album. ‘Ride’ from the new album, (available free to download via the web site) is also received exceptionally well. In truth, no song on the set is left wanting. This particular crowd embrace everything thrown at them, as if the band had been given a licence to really cut loose, spiral out of control and play at the pace and liveliness the welcome back show deserved.
The band abruptly leave at the end, no need to make a huge song and dance about their exit, it’s just a job well done, a massive statement of intent to tell the world, we’re fuckin’ back, deal with it! If they were a football team, other teams would be mightily scared of this performance. The only concern came from the band themselves as they felt the volume of the vocals were too low throughout, but with a highly charged crowd screaming every lyric, it would’ve been hard to drown out even if the volume had been turned “up to 11” as they say in ‘Spinal Tap’. The intensity and rawness of their instruments were certainly not too low, and that contributed to the night being a resounding success. Although musicians strive for perfection, I don’t think the fans felt the same frustrations as they were completely absorbed into the music. Once the lights flickered back on and the adrenaline wavered as we shuffled out, the question is what’s the perception of a band unwilling to be remembered as once supporting the great ‘Oasis’? Personally, I think I’ve just witnessed something extremely rare and special, which has apparently been the cornerstone of previous ‘Twisted Wheel’ gigs. This is potentially the band to unite the people of Manchester and the UK, a natural progression to fill the void left by ‘Oasis’ in the mid 2000s, which should’ve happened years ago. ‘Arctic Monkeys’ are the main UK act to do so and there are similarities between them and ‘Twisted Wheel’, but I can’t help but think that the face and course of British music could’ve changed if this had happened sooner or continued to gather the momentum from 2009.
If there’s still belief out there that we can make indie/rock great again, and people are ready for times to change and can truly feel the exciting tremors within the music underworld that’s galvanising, then this is a band to possibly spearhead a new regime and revolution. The talented bands are already in place, but few have the capability to really break through and make an impact for reasons beyond their control. Judging from the atmosphere, energy, attention, performance and general following at this show, which I’m sure have been similar for all the UK dates, it highlights that ‘Twisted Wheel’ are the band ready to challenge, change attitudes and topple the current charting establishment, and to bring the safe, marketable and uninspiring pop scene tumbling down.
If ‘Stone Roses’ gave us a reminder of the music of the past with their recent reunion, bringing it to the forefronts of our minds, trying to instil that belief, then ‘Twisted Wheel’ can surely take on the baton and run with it to become the new talking point of British music. The question is whether they can maintain this level and get back to where they once were? On this evidence the answer is no..... they can go much further! The wheel may be twisted but doesn’t that make the journey all the more interesting and dangerous?!
Review by Nigel Cartner
Promo image supplied by Rob @ Sonic pr