The Walkmen - Liverpool Cathedral
Liverpool Sound City adding the Anglican Cathedral as a venue this year is a masterstroke.
It's the largest cathedral in the UK, and the fifth-largest in the world. The Walkmen must have been duly awestruck as they rocked up for soundcheck. But if they were daunted on arrival, the band shows no signs of it during their set, a splintering mix of material old and new.
Hamilton Leithauser, hands in pockets, lets his lungs have a good go at filling the venue to its rafters. With spittle flying and veins bulging, he belts out favourites from 2010's 'Lisbon' and last year's 'Heaven' albums.
An appreciative crowd responds - before the bar for the set is raised with 'The Rat', this band's certifiable classic smashed out in style ahead of a gentle end with 'While I Shovel The Snow'.
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SKATERS - The Zanzibar
LSC's first day is a charged and fluid sprawl of anticipation and excitement, but doesn't pass without some balls-ups. There are technical issues, a few hissy fits and band cancellations. But NYC-based trio SKATERS arrive casually unruffled to play one of the best sets of the opening day.
Dishing out a punkish brand of electronic indie rock, the obvious standouts were ‘Armed’ with its droning chorus - “How will all the British people know we're armed armed armed?” (times that "armed by about 20) - and the upbeat yet fretful 'I Wanna Dance (But I Don’t Know How)', which finds lead singer Michael Cummings caterwauling the song's title over a bouncing bass line. SKATERS are definitely one of the bands we’ll hear more from.
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Mark Frith - Tavern On The Green
Mark Frith’s reputation precedes him. Paul Weller has described the Wigan artist him as a “classic British songwriter”, while legendary record producer John Leckie called him “the best songwriter I've worked with in 10 years”. When Frith comes on for a 20-minute set, all are suitably impressed Those accolades aren't quite lived up to, but Frith's delivery, stage presence and - most importantly - his songs are all very much there.
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Bill Ryder-Jones - East Village Arts Club Theatre
Bill Ryder-Jones has earned his status as a highly respected musician and record producer. The seemingly boundless praise is founded on effortlessly amazing guitar playing, soulful compositions, and now, at the forefront of his talents, a gift for writing songs that instantly connect.
With an album so quietly affecting as this year's 'A Bad Wind Blows In My Heart' to his name, it's perhaps unsurprising that Ryder-Jones is uncomfortable with the chatter in the room. His are songs of grace and charm, inspired by his formative teenage years. They are gentle, and front-row fans initially have to strain to hear them properly.
Daggers duly directed towards the loudmouths, Ryder-Jones composes himself and plays almost all of 'A Bad Wind...'. At times it's like he's casting pearls before swine; but the faithful loves every note.
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Dexys - Liverpool Cathedral
Kevin Rowland is back in dungarees again. His is an ensemble completed with a spiv moustache, two-tone brogues and a floppy flat cap. It’s not the rag-tag look of his ‘Come On Eileen’ days; more an aging Bugsy Malone get up.
The theatrics at Liverpool Cathedral aren't limited to the wardrobe choices, either. Sadly, the entire performance of last year’s otherwise stand-up soul album, ‘One Day I’m Going To Soar’, is acted out on stage like a hammy musical.
There are some really great songs on the album – ‘You’ and ‘Nowhere Is Home’ merge the best of Al Green and blue-eyed soul, and feel timeless. But having them played out in an amateur dramatics fashion makes our internal organs clench. At times it's borderline unbearable.
Shame, as the Cathedral and songs themselves should be a winning proposition, but the thespian aspect proves naff.
Words: Nick Rice
Photos: David Howarth
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