The small (but as they say, perfectly formed) performance space at the rear of Manchester’s Castle Hotel has played host to several acts which have gone on to much larger stages, and a cold Sunday evening saw the debut album launch from a young Mancunian whose eight piece band was already so large that they are already in need of a bigger stage. Sukh’s ‘Kings’ has already been gathering some positive vibes with it’s no nonsense songwriting and atmospheric pop melodies and there was no compromise in putting together a full band, including a string quartet (not dissimilar to fellow Mancunians Elbow) who were able to add their subtle weight and bring the album to life on stage.
However, it wasn’t all about the new album as there were also two ‘new’ (as in newer/unrecorded) songs in the showcase, both featuring Sukh solo on guitar, which may even take on new life in a band format in time (or not as the case may be – it worked for Springsteen’s ‘Nebraska’ after all). Not to say that they weren’t worthy additions, in particular the opening number which owed more than a nod to the maestro Dylan in both it’s guitar accompaniment and delivery. And for an unassuming and shy fledgling performer to be mentioned in the same paragraph as two of the finest ever songwriters and performers can’t be a bad thing.
So the short set included a fair chunk of ‘Kings’ – the title track being deservedly performed twice after earning enough applause to warrant an (unprepared) encore, the vote went for ‘Kings’ rather than ‘wishy-washy song’ (‘Den’) to be performed again, although there was a similarly brooding version of ‘Chair’ which would have done nicely as well – and fair enough as it’s an uptempo and accessible song which at a commercial level shows what Sukh can do to catch some mass appeal, while the likes of album and set closer ‘Now-Tomorrow’ shows more ambition – described as “the quietest song, but also the loudest song”, the dynamics with the full force of the strings show that there is more depth and texture than meets the eye to Sukh and his band.
After promising something more for the new year, it will be interesting to see how things develop with Sukh, but this taster of live performance suggests that he should waste no time in getting out with his band and be heard as much as possible. Mark as ‘one to watch’.
Review & photos by Mike Ainscoe