Fresh from supporting Brand New on their recent jaunt round the country, the Xcerts have embarked on their own mammoth tour of the UK’s smaller venues and it’s an especially intimate show tonight. Wedged into the corner of a packed Bowery in Sheffield, they dive headlong into opener ‘Do You Feel Safe?’ and it’s soon clear can certainly capture and hold a smaller venue just as firmly as any 02 Academy.
They’re rising through the ranks as part of a massive resurgence of Scottish rock music at the moment and have inevitably drawn comparisons with fellow three piece Biffy Clyro. For me, the comparisons end at ‘Scottish three-piece’ and even that is a bit of a stretch because the Xcerts’ drummer is from Exeter! They’re a completely different animal to the arena-conquering Biffy in that there’s a certain endearing awkwardness to their stage presence, even when the banter is flowing. Like all the best bands, they do their best work with instruments in hand.
They’ve certainly got the material to back up the hype and killer tracks like ‘Hurt With Me’ and ’Carnival Time’ from their latest album ‘Scatterbrain’ are equal parts raw honesty and anthemic song writing. They certainly go down well with the here even if the majority aren’t sure of the words and are seeing the Xcerts for the first time. That being said, there’s something for everyone tonight and there’s a generous helping of songs from first album ‘In The Cold Wind We Smile’ including personal favourite ‘Nightschool’ which sounds especially poignant and powerful when played live and even more so in an enclosed space like this. The Xcerts have an uncanny ability to project honesty and emotion through their hook-laden alt-rock anthems and this is why playing a smaller venue suits them just fine (for now) and they’ve definitely made some friends and fans here tonight. The merch stand is already packed with adoring fan girls ready to greet and talk to the band but there’s the small matter of the rest of the gig to get through.
As is customary, there is of course new material but unlike most bands playing new songs to a fresh crowd, ’Shaking in the Water’ has an immediate impact and even has the hipsters bobbing their heads (although not too vigorously. God forbid they should lose their ‘stylish’ glasses that never have bloody lenses in). Hopefully it’s a sign of things to come because it’s definitely a track that has the potential to be up there with some of their best work yet. An effortlessly brutal airing of ‘I See Things Differently’ and it appears that’s the end of the show, but when Murray emerges alone wielding a guitar it dawns on all loyal Xcerts fans that something special is going to happen. This comes in the form of a truly moving, stripped down version of ‘Aberdeen 1987’ which, complete with added acapella chorus, is a perfect way to end the night.
It was all too much for one young man, who dragged his undoubtedly lucky girlfriend out of the show and could be heard saying ‘Let’s go quick before my ears start bleeding’.
Guitars too loud, chum? Welcome to real, live music.