It was my first visit to the venue, a former record shop on a side street off Oxford Road and mighty impressed I was too. The upstairs live room is ideal for the big sounds of headliners Long-View and main support Exit Calm, having really good acoustics and the right feel. The journey from Sheffield over the Woodhead was an adventure in itself with high winds and driving rain and getting a parking spot outside the venue made up for the travel perils. A good early crowd caught Bauer, a vehicle for multi-talented singer/songwriter Greg Matthews and producer Neil Treppas, which expands to a quartet for live sets. Greg is naturally the focus for a slick set of highly melodic smooth indie songs.
The synth on the backing track was lead sound on several songs and stole the limelight from the live musicians somewhat but the audience didn’t mind with Bauer getting a rousing cheer on their close. Change Forever the pick of a good catalogue of songs. The crowd swelled significantly for the entrance of one of South Yorkshires finest Exit Calm. After a wonderful eponymous debut album they are busy writing songs for their 2nd and many of their fans were hoping for a few new album tasters tonight and they weren’t to be disappointed.
Entering to a sparsely lit backdrop and with the smoke machine earning its wages the silhouetted quartet soon create an atmosphere where the throng are transported on a sonic rollercoaster courtesy of Rob Marshall’s mesmeric guitar playing, driven on by the rhythm section of Sime on bass and Scott on drums, from opener You’ve Got It All Wrong to the culmination of a breathtaking set with closer and crowd favourite Hearts And Minds. Vocalist Nicky Smith is a formidable lyricist evidenced by such lines as ‘I need to take your weight off my mind’ on the cracking new song Albion and ‘I need a reference from the sky to judge the distance in your eye’ on Reference. With another top newie When They Rise getting an airing the Calm’s 2nd album can’t come soon enough.
Tough act to follow and the crowd noticeably thinned prior to Long-View entering the fray but there was still a good sized crowd to welcome the home adopted Mancunian Rob McVey and his crew after a prolonged absence. Rob is a charismatic character with a versatile voice and very talented guitar fingers that have helped bring LV a top 50 album Mercury and top 30 single Further in 2003 / 4 and their line up also once boasted the legendary German musician / producer Ulrich Schnauss (who mixed the aforementioned Exit Calm’s debut album).
Their understated, at times scuzzy guitars create a perfect soundscape for Rob’s emotive vocals to sit atop on tracks like Why and Still. Drummer Francesco’s stick work also stands out on several songs providing a driving backbeat on the likes of the excellent Can’t Explain. The high energy on stage is absorbed and returned by LV’s devotees and the inevitable encore produces my fave Will You Wait Here, ending an impressive 45 minutes. With more new material we could well see the rise again of a band many want to have more successes.