Monday, September 26, 2011

Live Review: The Subways, O2 Academy 2 Newcastle, 25/09/2011

I'm a keen follower of the UK's indie scene, but even so The Subways seem like an anomaly in my taste. I'm the type of music listener that appreciates invention, ambition and originality, three attributes that the London three-piece's music is completely devoid of, yet they're a band that I've always kept an eye on and have invariably enjoyed. I wouldn't go so far as to call them a guilty pleasure, but they're hardly a favourite among critics, with new album Money & Celebrity in particular bringing about a reaction which could be described as was mixed at best. As with many bands of their ilk, their popularity also appears to be on the slide, and so this tour saw them visit smaller venues than they're perhaps used to, with this gig taking place in front of only 200 spectators. To their credit, though, they seemed undeterred by this regression, and as per usual failed to disappoint with a racous hour-long set.

After two excellent support acts in the form of Irish indie rockers Young Aviators and post-hardcore quartet Straight Lines, I had my suspicions that The Subways were set to be upstaged at their own show. Such speculation did, however, prove misplaced, as they're a band that's custom-made for the live environment, and despite the fact that they only have three albums it's easy to forget what a solid canon of pop-rock nuggets they possess.

They're a fun band on record, but in reality each and every one of their songs was written with live shows in mind, and more intimate venues such as this only help them flourish further. Simple yet addictive singalongs like 'Oh Yeah,' 'Rock 'N' Roll Queen' and 'I Want To Hear What You Have Got To Say' seemed to gain a new lease of life in front of a more animated crowd, while heavier cuts such as 'Kalifornia' benefited no end from that added influx of energy. Of course, the band themselves were responsible for much of that buzz, and it's the members enthusiasm which provides the driving force behind the carefree charm of their music. You can tell from the manic glint in Billy Lunn's eye that there's nothing he'd rather do for a day job than front a rock 'n' roll band, and that attitude is reflected in bassist Charlotte Cooper and drummer Josh Morgan, who's respective glamour and muscle is just as vital to the well-oiled power trio's sound.

As well as satisfying their love of touring, though, these shows also served to promote the new album, but that's where they occasionally ran into problems. While every track on Money & Celebrity is enjoyable in it's own right, it's an album which doesn't boast any great highlights, and that showed when the songs aired largely fell short of their grittier predecessors. In fairness, though, newies like 'It's A Party' and 'We Don't Need Money To Have A Good Time' display the essence of what The Subways are all about. They'll probably never progress from being good as opposed to great, but amid the seriousness which can strain today's scene it's refreshing that there are still bands around who care about little else than giving their fans with a good night out. It's mindless and dumb yet completely thrilling, and while they may not be reaping the rewards this gig showed that in the live arena at least they remain a force to be reckoned with.

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