+44 / The Tommys / The Maple State /The Sounds - Manchester Academy 1 - 8.2.07

A drilling percussion combination is delivered by The Tommys’ Fran Robinson for opener ‘You’re Not The One’. This signals to everyone that the time for frowning and lamenting at the news that Travis Barker, drummer for tonight’s headliners will not be playing due to a broken arm, is over. The churning bass lines of Anna Naberie wraps around the percussion to provide a platform for the spindling guitars and drawn out, Katie Jane Garside vocals of singer Stevie Shepperson. Crowd approval is given immediately in the formation of a vibrant, flailing armed mosh circle that stops in unison mid-song, in amazement at the range and power on show.

The touch paper lighting rock-out of ‘Set It Off’, sees the pit rumbling again and the searching, coming of age glam-skirting ‘Freakshow’, helps Stevie’s vocal range expand like the condom that is being inflated before our eyes. Mind-freeing riffs and belting percussion gushes out from ‘Out Of My Head’, representing what feral rock should be about. The punk spirit oozes out of this trio of Crewe based femmes. This is more apparent in what is not here tonight and that is cheap merchandise and gimmicks, like free badges for signing the mailing list. The only product these girls are interested in, is their music and at the end of their soaring set, there are many people present who will happily buy that.

A few years back here in Manchester, local band The Maple State produced a hungry and accomplished set of brooding indie and rock, in support of Motion City Soundtrack. This helped them earn a deal with respected indie label High Voltage, but that is where the success story ends. Tonight, they fail to harness the crowd enthusiasm created by the opening act and requests from front man, Gregory Counsel for participation, sees just four hands aloft. Keyboard kicks and vocal yelps that fail to complement the creaking riffs, leaves most of the offerings appearing lifeless. New single, ‘Joanna’ takes on more atmospheric spice in a live setting and briefly gives the set some focus, but it is short lived and the 30 minutes passes without any real meaning and attention grabbing moments.

Electro frenzied Swedish troupe, The Sounds immediately raise intrigue levels. A rising, keyboard kicking merger of the impact of Republica and Blondie (especially in the vocals), includes a brief flirtation with Chrissie Hyndes. Their sound hangs out like a delinquent in a shopping mall. Keyboardist/synth driver Jesper Anderberg and bassist Johan Bengtsson provides the bulk of the instrumental, new wave thrust early on. This sound is hurled around using the thrusting and provocative older song, ‘Living In America’ that is actually about Sweden. Front vixen, Maja Ivarsson has no trouble in imbuing the mood of static captivation with some playfulness, as pleas for handclapping in the air results in universal acceptance and a ‘Radio Gaga’ type scene is upon us. Ivarsson’s teasing vocals reach bold impact point for the colourful ‘Painted By Numbers’, littered with drilling drumbeats that push along the leading lady’s spirited strut. The old new wave ability to captivate an energetic crowd into a state of intrigue and admiration is very much alive and well. However, the award for best crowd activation from the three support acts goes to openers, The Tommys.

A Travis-less +44, makes a low key entrance in contrast to front man Mark Hoppus’ reputation with Blink 182. Instead they stride meaningfully into their bounding and lyrically reflective material, leaning largely on debut album material. ‘Lycanthrope’ gives substitute drummer, Gill a chance to earn his corn and provide the broad, mid-tempo drive. He adeptly crafts a groove for Hoppus to ride his dragging, thoughtful vocals over. A theme that continues into the power pop, plead of ‘Baby Come On’ that gives the pit energy and a bit of rhythm.

Power ode, ‘Little Death’ represents the biggest departure from the lead man’s other project, as slow chiming guitars start the mournful sojourn. Eerie ambient interludes elevate the two tier vocals, scattering slow soul searching cries in the verses, before the emotion takes over and an emo/punk plain is reached. This range is well-received and the expected cries for Blink 182 songs are easily suppressed. Hoppus has not lost his enthusiastic and chatty stage presence, he’s just flushed away the toilet humour and not too many complain about that. ‘Chapter 13’ keeps the yearning touch ticking, it is an apt demonstration of mood building that is facilitated by the rumbling percussion and slow stabbing, lingering guitars. Tonight’s searching set represents a progression for Hoppus and could render Blink 182’s “indefinite hiatus” longer than many critics truly expected.

Dave Adair

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