I was in one of those moods. I’d been to a great concert the night before and had had a very long and tiring day at work. Could I raise myself for another gig and another late midweek bedtime? This was to be a night of firsts for me. My first glimpse of the highly rated Telegram (support tonight), my first visit to the newly re-opened Riverside and my first live experience of The Horrors. My energy levels were low but expectations were high on all counts and although they weren’t all to be entirely met, the night in general exceeded my hopes and vindicated my decision to get off my arse and out of the house.
The venue was smaller than I recalled, but very functional and with excellent sight-lines, lighting and sound. It occurred to me that seeing Interpol here earlier in the year must have been amazing, also Courtney Love. As I type out this review I’m excited to see The Hold Steady in October and in January next year the brilliant Mark Lanegan in such a relatively intimate venue.
Telegram took the stage with all the swagger you’d expect from a buzz band. They have some great songs but the band are a little bit too retro for my taste, right down to the vintage leather jackets and cuban heels. Nevertheless they have bags of potential and were a good choice as warm up to the headliners.
I was slightly anxious about hearing The Horrors play live. I’d always considered that their sound owed much to excellent production and the atmospherics of their recordings might not be easy to replicate in the flesh. My concerns were quickly and emphatically dispelled as the band kicked of with a brilliant rendition of Chasing Shadows from their most recent album, Luminous.
The early part of the set was dominated by songs from the new album but that didn’t seem to matter to the increasingly exuberant and youthful crowd who were obviously very familiar with Luminous. The band take influences from a variety of 80’s bands most obviously Simple Minds and Bauhaus but I was reminded of Suede and in particular I was struck how lead singer Faris Badwan sounded like Brett Anderson at times (a comparison I mean as a huge compliment). At other times he also reminded me of The Associates’ genius frontman Billie Mackenzie and that’s even higher praise.
Four songs in we got Sea Within A Sea, debut album Primary Colours’ majestic epic. It was clear by this point that we were in for a very special night. The sound was crystal clear and yet loud enough for anyone so inclined to let it take them over. The music was almost hypnotically good and it just kept on getting better.
Mirrors Image and Still Life were played in turn as lasers beamed out and smoke drifted above the perfectly messy hair of Faris. Less familiar songs (to me at least) held their own and sat well in a perfectly crafted set, Change Your Mind and Endless Blue followed before the main set reached a climactic finish with an astonishing I See You whipping the crowd into a delirious frenzy.
Without too much encouragement the band returned to perform the obligatory encore in the form of So Now You Know and Moving Further Away.
On the previous night I’d been completely mesmerised by Ladysmith Black Mambazo at Sage, Gateshead. Had you told me then that one night later I’d be equally yet differently affected by The Horrors I’d have questioned your sanity but that’s exactly what had happened. I’d say that this gig and The Horrors’ performance in particular ranks amongst my favourites of the year.
Reviewer and photographer: Russell Poad