The Vegas experience, entertainment brought to Manchester courtesy of the elegant 235 Casino! However, the excitement usually derived from the thrilling gaming tables is tonight rivalled in the form of live music direct from the heart of Manchester itself, namely, the fascinating Rubys. Their headline gig tonight at Manchester 235 Casino is one of illustrious expectation, not only because of the prospect of watching one of the most lyrically and musically inspiring bands around at the moment, who’s live shows are always of a consistent high quality, but also from the promise of the unpredictability the aftershow promises to deliver, in a night billed around Vegas’ premium indulgences, music and casinos! Aside from a Birmingham date and Manchester’s ‘Future Perfect’ festival, the event tonight signifies a short farewell to The Rubys as they convene to write and record material for a new album that’ll hopefully be released later this year. The promise of a few songs on that album to be played later on for the first time makes the night even more mouth-watering.This is my first time watching live music in any casino, let alone 235, but I’m enamoured by how sophisticated the venue looks. It’s only small, semi-circle in shape, but it’s remarkably plush, filled by a very contemporary Vegas feel to the design with its darker, sultry red/purple colour choice. It’s not long before the solitary support act, Jay Forden, takes to the stage with his acoustic guitar. Amazingly this is his first ever live performance, and you couldn’t tell as he nonchalantly plays a few heartfelt songs to warm up the crowd with all the confidence of a seasoned pro. The highlight was a cover of ‘Oasis’’ ‘Wonderwall’, a song clearly near and dear to his heart as he dedicates it to his wife as this was the song that also blessed their wedding.
Shortly after, The Rubys appear, all wearing variations of the smart attire fit for the occasion that a trip to the casino brings! The crowd that was sat back relaxing to the acoustic sounds of Jay Forden now pour forward to the front. The band open with the first two tracks off debut album, ‘Limelight Parasite’, the lively ‘Good Times’ and ‘Last Night’. Both tracks are ones to really pump the crowd up, and this trend continues when latest single ‘Shake You Free’ is played, the track that’s helped put them on the map in America. Tat Sing Kong on guitar just seems to get better and better with every show, playing live songs differently to how they are recorded, adding a Hendrix style slide to add an edgier dimension to the sound. Two new tracks sandwich the poignant ‘Fear’, and there’s a buzz about them, instantly being of ‘Rubys’ sound calibre, but different and darker in some respects, likened to Nick Cave’s flair, given its shadowy undertone.
Three familiar songs follow; the switch to a darker tone with the emotive ‘After All’, the summery ballad, ‘Jesus Girl’ and the guitarists dream tune, ‘Echo’, which carries tremendous slide riffs which forms the core of the songs soul. After this trio of brilliance, singer Lee Hunter announces a special guest to join them onstage. Unbeknown to myself, I’m startled to hear my own name called. He’d previously threatened to get me up in some capacity at some point, but I never thought he’d actually go through with it. Amidst the laughter from the band, I step up from the audience as Lee asks me to sing backing vocals to ‘M.L.E.’. Whether or not I was good is not for me to review, but I’ve since heard that Lee’s position as lead singer is under threat!!! In all seriousness it was a great pleasure to be up there with them and be part of The Rubys experience, so I thank them wholeheartedly for that. A couple of new songs follow to give us a further glimpse into how the new album’s shaping up, before they finish on familiar ground with Manchester favourite ‘Sun’ and the twisted love ballad finale of ‘Not Like You’.
It was once again another vintage display from The Rubys, never failing to deliver such is their professionalism, inspired musicianship and the strength of every song they write. The venue itself was possibly not the best platform for their true sound to be heard, probably suiting a more intimate acoustic gig, but it didn’t seem to matter to the crowd who danced and sang every lyric throughout the show. Such was the classy nature of the venue itself and the added edge of the casino beckoning immediately afterwards, it was always going to be a successful night. Next for The Rubys involves one or two more gigs before going back to the studio for the second album. There is still the hope of an American tour in September, a trip that needs to happen to satisfy their growing fan base across the pond. It’s staggering to hear that single ‘Shake You Free’ has not been out of the top ten on SRrocks radio station in Philadelphia since September. It has in fact been No.1 on several occasions, and we’re talking about them being pitted against giants such as ‘Rolling Stones’ and ‘Led Zeppelin’ week in week out. Interest from the west coast is creeping into view too as they were recently interviewed on the Michelle Jennae show. For these reasons America has to happen! Who knows, if the support continues for the next couple of years, we could be seeing The Rubys play a similar venue to 235, but afterwards could involve stepping out to the grander and more excessive scale of Las Vegas itself.
Shake You Free
Say what goes
Live at the Zoo
Sell the Sun at Once
Not Like You
Review by Nigel Cartner
Photos by Philip Howe