Puressence, Exit Calm, Loop Anzavour: The Ritz, Manchester

The Ritz, in Manchester is a venue more associated with student and ‘grab a granny’ nights than gigs. Arriving after eight, Loop Aznavour’s musical adventures were already under way. As I looked at the stage and took in the sound, my first thought was, what the f**k?

Loop Aznavour is David Cordwell, an untypical one man band from Bury. From a distance he looks like 80s pop tart Andy Bell, vocally he is something akin to Mark E Smith, complete with the occasional use of a megaphone. His sound is electronic based, with regular use of a theramin (a stick that you wave your hand in front of to generate wobbly, spooky sounds) as used to great effect by Space in the 90s. This was not a gentle introduction to the night’s festivities, but all the same he was well and generously received.

Next up were Yorkshire hopefuls Exit Calm, a band not dissimilar to Puressence themselves in that they create big sonic soundscapes. Sound wise they are reminiscent of early Verve and maybe even a little bit of U2. Lead singer, Nicky Smith enters the stage with a swagger, but equally at times looks nervous and uncomfortable in his surroundings, nevertheless he was totally focussed on delivering a great performance, his leg pulsating manically. Live, the band really show what they are all about, giving greater space to their massive sound. A great support act lapped up by the crowd.

Every time that Puressence play their home(ish) town there is always a great sense of anticipation and celebration, these days being an annual event than a more regular occurrence. Tonight is the launch of their new album Solid State Recital, their fifth studio release in a career spanning 19 years, the bulk of this receiving its début outing. It’s an indictment of just how strong their new material is, that before their album has even been released that they are prepared to give it as much space on the set-list as all of their previous material put together. New tracks sandwiched nicely between old favourites to create a fantastic, strong and coherent set.

One new track to get an airing this evening is Swathes of Sea Made Stone, with its light almost bouncing bass and drums at the start building to a bustling, pulsating crescendo, it’s massive and awesome. All band members play their full part, especially James Mudriczki with his big, haunting falsetto vocals. All I Want then kicks in and tugs at your heartstrings. Another new track, Solid State is almost un-Puressence like, more steady and down the line than their usual sweeping musical landscapes. The set closes with the almighty India, hands raised aloft the song moving from a gentle intro, to big powerful chorus within seconds, raising you up, then letting you go, before grabbing you again on an intense musical and emotional journey.

The encore takes in three classic tracks, kicking off with This Feeling, the crowd singing along and contributing to the song in a classic stadium type way, mic pointed in their direction. The whole venue is bouncing, literally and metaphorically (thanks to the Ritz’s infamous bouncy dance floor). It makes you really question why the real big time has never quite happened for Puressence. Walking Dead follows next keeping up the relentless pace and maintaining the momentum. Sharpen up the Knives, brings proceedings to a close, with its incessant rumbling bass, a sense of constant urgency, knowing that it’s going to take you higher and higher, before briefly giving you respite before it begins its aural assault again, it leaves you exhausted but totally uplifted. A great song to end with, showing what Puressence are all about. The band then takes in their deserved applause, soaking up the adoration. Before leaving the stage singer James says, ‘stick with us, we might even make it’, here’s hoping so.

You can catch Puressence live for yourself this summer at a selection of UK festivals including the Galtres and Friends of Mine festivals.