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It was over the hills and far away, well Leeds at least and The Brudenell Social Club. What a great little venue this is, and from the posters on the walls, it appears that the cream of the U.K indie/alternative scene come through here on a regular basis. The Brudenell has a great band room with a relatively high stage and a raised area at the back of the semi circular room, which gives an excellent view if you don’t want to be in the melee at the front.  It definitely goes towards the top of my list of favourite venues. Tonight’s gig had originally been billed as an AlcoPop! Double bill of headliners Johnny Foreigner and Stagecoach, but on arriving, this was extended to local band Circles and Hull outfit, The Neat.  

Turning up early paid dividends as four piece Circles took to the stage. The band produces good solid indie rock, with a wonderfully heavy guitar sound. There’s nothing ground breaking here, but that’s made up for with some great tunes, especially opener Vampires.  The young lads are a little short on stage presence, but hopefully this will come with experience. While playing locally has the obvious advantage of swelling the numbers with friends and family attending, it can also be slightly distracting for the band and this was the case on a couple of occasions between songs. It would be good to catch Circles outside their local comfort zone and they are a band to watch out for in the future.

Next up were Johnny Foreigner label mates, Surreyish based Stagecoach and a lack of stage presence certainly isn’t a criticism that can be levelled at this outfit. There are some similarities in sound between the two bands although Stagecoach incorporates a slightly more folk aspect to their music, mainly due to Chop and his mandolin, but there’s still plenty of whoops, screams and spiky guitar involved in their set. There’s also a genuine feeling that everyone involved is really enjoy themselves and both guitarist Niggsy and Chop take opportunities to launch themselves off stage and carry on playing in the audience. Highlights of an energetic and fun set were “Tazers” and “Good! Great! Better! Best!”  If you’re after an entertaining night of live music, I doubt Stagecoach will ever let you down.

On a separate note, check out the “We got tazers!” EP, which has a great dubstep remix of the title track.

6 Music favourites The Neat are a four piece from Hull who recently recorded a session on Marc Riley’ show at the beginning of October and are also heavily endorsed by Steve Lamacq.  Listening to them tonight, it’s really not that hard to work out why. There are definite shades of late 70’s / early 80’s new wave, with bands like Joy Division, The Fall and Public Image Limited all springing to mind. The influences are further enhanced as Lead singer / bassist, Merrick Sanders Green’s movements at the mike are also very reminiscent of Ian Curtis. 

Again, although we aren’t looking at anything progressive, there’s fantastic energy and a real intensity within their live show and some excellent, effects heavy, guitar work.   Stand out tracks tonight were opener, “Ode to Joy,”  “In youth is pleasure” and the primal drum driven closing track “Hips,” which is also the current single.

While the running order in the Brudenell suggested that Johnny Foreigner and The Neat were joint headliners, there was no doubt who the majority of the audience had come to see tonight.  The Birmingham three piece, are back on the road promoting their latest, catchily titled mini album, “ You thought you saw a shooting star but your eyes were blurred with tears and that light house can be pretty deceiving with the sky so clear and sea so calm. ”  The majority of the set was made up however from their first three albums and from the opening track, “Champagne girls I have known” the crowd went wild and were singing along to all the old favourites.  There’s a certain amount of unpredictability about Johnny Foreigner live and there were a couple of glitches and false starts, but that may be partly due to the fact that the band don’t play with the assistance of a set list, which gives  an overall edge to the performance.

Once again there’s plenty of life on stage with, in general, everything being played at a fast tempo with only “I’ll choose my side and shut up, alright,” really giving the band time to draw breath.  Drummer, Junior Laidley steps up front for this one and straps on a guitar, showing some nice touches, while bassist / vocalist, Kelly Southern sits in behind the kit.


Out of the new songs played tonight, two, “Harriet by Proxy” from the mini album and “Tru Punx” from the Stagecoach shared EP are typical Jofo fare.  Although this is a crowd pleasing stance, while still introducing something fresh, “You thought you saw a shooting star ..........” has a more mature sound overall than the previous recordings and the vocals from both Alexei Berrow and Kelly Southern are more controlled and understated. Tracks such as “Robert Scargill takes the prize” and “Yr loved” are much slower folk tinged numbers, along the lines of Noah and the Whale and show a more tender and emotive side to Johnny Foreigner. It would have been interesting if they had chosen to take a risk and perhaps introduce one of these into the set, or even “Elegy for post teenage living,” again a track from “You thought.............”. Although part one of this song is more the traditional Johnny Foreigner structure, part two moves into electronica territory and would have helped to break things up slightly and provided a more diverse performance.

The Leeds faithful, after trudging through the snow and freezing conditions, aren’t particularly interested in new material however and demand the more familiar songs to send them into a frenzy and provide a soundtrack for crowd surfing and stage diving.  Jofo deliver exactly what’s required and ‘Feels like Summer’, ‘Yes, you talk too fast’, ‘Eyes wide terrified’, and ‘Salt, Pepper andSpinderella’ are all gratefully accepted.  The set closes with the band being joined by various members of Stagecoach for a punk thrash through “The coast is always clear,” before a triumphant encore of “Our bipolar friends,” leaves everybody physically and emotionally drained. 

It’s very unlikely that after such a welcome return to Leeds, vocalist / guitarist Alexei Burrows plea for a place for the band to stay overnight went unanswered, but this also highlights that life on the road for musicians isn’t always quite as glamorous as people might like to think.

Review by Andy Barnes
Photos by Jamie Dunning