Shields at Cluny 2, Newcastle on 30th January 2015

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One of the things I love about going to see gigs at small local venues is how wonderfully eclectic the line-up can be. And to see Charlie Dancer, Gallery Circus and Shields all on one bill is certainly an unusual mix. Lurching from alt-folk-pop, to unrestrained bluesy-rock, to tempered indie-pop in one night is a real rollercoaster for the ears. The great thing is, there is something to celebrate in all of them.

First on the bill was local singer songwriter, Charlie Dancer, latest member of the talented Dancer clan to grace the Cluny 2 stage. Supported by lead, bass guitarist and drums, Dancer’s style is hard to pin down as elements of folk, pop and a pinch of indie are all thrown into the pot. His slight frame and curly mop of hair belie his husky, gravelly voice, which is perfectly suited to the charming, if occasionally emotionally overwrought, song writing style. With most songs starting quietly and building to a crashing crescendo, there is a definite formula Dancer is sticking to, but his story-telling lyrics mix it up enough to keep it interesting. Check out set opener ‘Skin’ and pacier number ‘Disaster’ if it sounds like your thing and expect an EP out in a couple of months.

And now for something completely different. Twin brothers, Dan and Graeme, who make up Gallery Circus, are pretty unassuming in person. Dressed in jeans and plaid shirts, they could be any member of the audience tonight, but put them on the stage, give them a couple of microphones, a guitar, a keyboard and some drums and they’re completely transformed into a writhing mass of bluesy rock energy. Reminiscent of Royal Blood, they play hard and they play loud. I can’t hear a word they’re singing but it really doesn’t matter. It could be the twin thing, but they’re so completely in sync they don’t even need to look at each other. Their music is experimental, with a raw edge to it that can at times feel a bit frenetic and unpredictable, but with a good producer on their side, I’m sure it can be honed into a formidable force for the future. Their new single, ‘Hollywood Drip’, is out on 3rd March and hopefully an EP is in the offing.

Finally, the night’s headliners, Shields, take to the stage. The crowd seems to have suddenly swelled, the lights have come on and it’s time for action. The five piece are obviously a very slick unit – you can tell they’ve been spending a lot of time together recently as they record their new album, which is apparently almost finished. The gig was billed as a New Year, New Tunes showcase, so needless to say most of their songs were previously unheard, with the occasional older number thrown in for good measure. Their music has the potential to be great, but there almost seems to be a perfectionist sensibility amongst them, with every note, harmony and beat sitting together perfectly. That’s not to say it doesn’t work – as they ease into the set, their catchy, light-hearted pop gets everyone dancing – but they’re at their best when they let go a little bit. There was the odd syncopated beat, but it wasn’t until song nine out of eleven that I felt they really hit their stride, ready to break out crowd-pleaser, ‘Mezzanine’. They close the night out with an old song that’s going to be on the album after this album…maybe. If you ask me, they shouldn’t overthink it – get the album out, get the gigs going and let loose.

Reviewer: Jennifer Westmoreland

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