Stage and Radio, Manchester, 26 January 2022

Words and Photos by Gary Lambert

As part of Music Venue Trust and The National Lottery’s Revive Live campaign, Brighton’s LibraLibra took in the basement surrounds of Stage and Radio for the Manchester leg of the four-piece’s national tour. This was the first time I had been able to watch LibraLibra since a wonderful set at Off The Record a couple of years ago, so I was well up for the gig. Plus I always like to tick off new, to me, spaces for watching live music. It was the venue’s first foray into the field of live guitar music as it is usually used for dance music events, but despite a couple of teething problems which would be ironed out quickly with experience, I found Stage and Radio to be a really enjoyable place to watch music. It had the gritty feeling of traditional basement spaces, but without the grubbiness that makes some once beloved rooms unappealing to modern audiences.

The first band on were The Red Stains. One of my favourite things in the creative world is when artists produce contrast in their work, and I loved The Red Stains‘ mix of sneering bubblegum-ish vocals with the most dirty punk basslines and sexy electro rhythms. With subjects ranging from dickhead men (it’s always dickhead men) who tell women to smile despite not knowing anything about them and their lives, to complaints about public transport, to techniques to avoid debt collection agencies, The Red Stains will connect with people.

I wonder where the future of The Red Stains lies, if it is closer to the punchy crunch of their live sound than the polished smooth pop of their recorded output.

I don’t think I’d seen Queen Cult perform before, but I was incredibly impressed with how well constructed their sound is already. They sounded recognisable without feeling dated or a facsimile or collage of other acts. As impressive as their performance was, I was also very impressed with their understanding of what makes an enjoyable live music experience, each song pushed the audience further and encouraged them to push the band onwards. The set flew by and made me want to investigate more of the Queen Cult sound as soon as I got home (I stuck them on repeat as I wrote this review actually).

LibraLibra are such an exciting band. Singles such as Lonely Girl and Candy Mountain have been played to death by me, and I was ready for the live experience once again. And what an experience it was! LibraLibra have fun on stage, and in the audience as Beth prowls around making sure everybody in the room feels part of the show, but the fun comes at no expense to the musicality. It is obvious that within the band every member is allowed to flourish and the end result is a wonderful collage of musical influences. There are splashes of X-Ray Spex punk attitude, Girls Aloud pop sensibility, and the undulating drama and performance of musical theatre. It is so wonderfully uplifting to be part of such a wild performance.

I just hope I don’t have to wait a couple of years for the next time I watch LibraLibra.

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    Popped Music has been going since Feb 2010.

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