Live Review: Clean Cut Kid, Manchester

Clean Cut Kid, Gorilla, Manchester 28 March 2019

Words and Photographs by Gary Lambert

When you live in Liverpool and want to see a Liverpool band then it’s usually a hometown show that allows you to take the band in. This means that there is invariably a great atmosphere when the band play, but due to the heavy influx of friends, family, those who dream of being a hanger on, and hangers on the gigs are also falsely populated. The chance to take in a Clean Cut Kid gig in Manchester’s Gorilla venue was one that I was not going to pass up. To be honest, I’d turn up to the opening of an envelope if it was taking place at Gorilla. It might be difficult to take photographs in at times and can be a struggle to move around when busy, but it’s a proper venue that always seems to bring out the best in bands and the audience.

Opening up on this tour has been Tom Speight and his big banner literally spelling his name out for the audience. I give a big thumbs up to this as I see so many support bands playing in front of new crowds that don’t let them know who they are. You’re missing out on social media followers, the next set of fans, and people who might buy tickets to your gigs in the future by not stating clearly and regularly who you are.

Tom’s music is gentle and well crafted like so many acoustic guitar playing singer-songwriters, but unlike so many of those performers, he seems to have an air of positivity to him rather than make you feel they are unbearably shy and wish for nothing more than to finish on stage. Part of this confidence could come from a business trip to Brazil which was a series of interviews and shows as he has, somehow, become quite big there. It goes to show the global nature of our music industry nowadays thanks to the likes of Spotify and social media. The highlight of his set had to be him asking for the crowd to make a circle in order for him and his one-woman backing band to play in the middle of the room, without a microphone, lit up by the mobile phones of the crowd being raised aloft. I don’t know if it is his trademark that he does at every gig, but it made this set feel special.

A few hours after Clean Cut Kid’s set was finished they were to become a band with two released albums rather than just their debut, but until midnight came a live set was the only way to hear the tracks off their sophomore release, ‘Painkiller’.

The sound that they have captured on that record is more classic rock than on ‘Felt’ and there is a noticeable effect on their live performance as there is new life injected into older tracks as the pop element is twisted into something more grown up and probably in tune with how the band are feeling.

his is a great thing as it shows the love and confidence the band have in those tracks to continue playing them but also adapt them to their own tastes. Plus it allows the gig to flow smoothly as you don’t feel that you are being taken from one extreme to another. The finish of ‘Vitamin C’ followed by Emily was a perfect example of that. You would believe that the songs were written and recorded on the same day such is the natural balance between the two pieces. ‘Vitamin C’, as you’d expect from a song that has been played in every indie club on a semi-regular basis for two years, gets everybody singing along like we were at a festival on a Sunday afternoon rather than a Thursday night gig.

Despite the plugging of the album, you get the feeling from watching Clean Cut Kid that their real reward comes from the creation of music that they enjoy and seeing the reaction in their fans. There is a glint in Mike’s eye from the first moment to the last, and not just when he is looking at Evelyn.

The band seem happy, so very happy, and that has an infectious effect. It doesn’t hinder the vibe by having the night filled with songs that you can stick on whenever you need cheering up, but I felt that they could stand there with the grins on their face without making a sound and it would still cause us in the audience to smile with them.

Clean Cut Kid, they’re just boss la.

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