One Flies over (Sean) Cook whose nest (is filled with Candy Darling!)
After an hour spent waiting for folk to fill the room, it seems that time is passing by just as slowly as they appear. Support act Candy Darling (CD) AKA Emily Breeze (EB) sits restlessly, barely hiding her humble hopes of shifting a few copies of her new 7” single ‘Money’ on ltd edition coloured vinyl.
Members of headline act The Flies (TF) infrequently flit to and fro, themselves assessing the size of a room which, according to folklore is capable of accommodating a 400-strong crowd (as yet far from likely). Wearing a welcoming yet typically wry smile expression, Sean Cook (SC) enters.
It’s 7:50pm and after briefly shooting the breeze with a soon-to-be stage-bound EB, SC once again exits the scene for what I suspect could be a visit to the cosy nearby bar. The occasional stray, straggler, photographer and fellow journalist begins to inhabit the immediate floor space upfront.
Half an hour passes and 30 people (surreal given that the room is packed solid by 9pm) are stood somewhat forlornly yet steadfast and staring towards a motionless stage. The room’s energy soon escalates however and the populace responds emphatically as CD start the first of tonight’s shows.
Unfurling their well-received sounds like a Pauline Murray-led Joy Division, CD have got it going on; something that’s particularly true of EB, our dark, endearing chanteuse. Despite some casually shrugged off technical issues with the keyboard, tonight’s opening set is a great success.
It’s easy to imagine that the Jesus & Mary Chain/Hope Sandoval collaboration ‘Sometimes Always’ could’ve sounded like this, but as the room temperature rapidly rises, EB’s energy and enthusiastic vocals soon undermine the value of any such apathy, clearly highlighting the necessity of noise.
EB screams out her lyrics amidst some intense axe work and now, with an enthralled crowd eating sonic nuggets from the palm of her hand, she shares her appreciation for the increasingly rapturous applause. How long before a 4AD/Too Pure-level label sign this sultry, streetwise Siouxsie Sioux?
TF are up next and this flu-ridden writer is wet with anticipation (although that could be sweat!). The crowd is quick to escape the heat and I join the thirst-driven scramble for the bar, before TF appear. Queuing I process negative feedback received from friends, who say things like TF sound too samey.
Nurturing such an opulent signature sound still in its infancy is vital when releasing a 2nd LP (even if some naysayers have compared you to a HBO in-house band). Few casual listeners ever find the time to dissect and fully appreciate TF, whose aura is further brightened by the bold lyrical content.
As well as spending a post-show fortnight listening to nothing more than ‘Pleasure Yourself, I’ve also spent a pre-show fortnight solely listening to ‘All Too Human’, TF’s debut predecessor and It’s really been a musical month of magic… but can TF still deliver the same goods live like they did in 2007?
Despite the fact that TF spend considerable time shifting and setting up their on-stage equipment, the start of their delayed 10pm set is disappointingly met by less than half of tonight’s audience. Also, what of the 11pm curfew... can it still accommodate a worthwhile gig and LP launch?
SC disguises his frustration and at 22:10, after quickly visiting the DJ booth, the Velvet Underground’s ‘Sweet Jane’ fades and TF finally take to the stage. Closing my eyes as the band starts to play, it’s virtually impossible to distinguish the stage-borne sound from that of the studio.
What would usually amount to a seductive opening to a live set is actually drowned out amidst a disrespectful level of audible banter and as the beauty of ‘One Day my Baby will leave you’ sadly succumbs to The Exchange’s back-room chatter, the band successfully continues undeterred.
‘The Usual Unusual’ and its upbeat tempo is almost enough to engage Mr Chatterbox and his mates, who now occupy the back third of this intimate venue, but not before SC’s inaudible muttering surrenders to the evidently live brilliance of ‘Bitter Moon’ from the debut LP ‘All too Human’.
Tonight’s up close, personal performance nears perfection when ‘In her eyes’ is delivered with unprecedented vocal aplomb, before being overshadowed by a heartfelt version of ‘Lies’, a sincere and fragile track that somehow failed to capture the same magical effect recorded for the LP.
A mesmerised Ms SC sits beside me as a typically atmospheric ‘Walking on the Sand’ takes us onward and upward. After hearing the LP, I can’t help but feel that many of us here tonight will soon be sharing the expression of sheer admiration that’s now illuminating her pretty French face.
Doth my ears deceive me or has Goldie taken to the stage? Despite any initial, justifiable enquiry, the question is validated the deeper we venture into a revamped version of ‘The Temptress’, which honestly kicks ass, deservedly placing itself far from comparison upon a pedestal of sonic supremacy.
‘We Began’ sees SC’s harmonica make a welcome return to proceedings, although it has to be said that for a new album launch, tonight’s set has featured an abundance of older tracks. Never a bad thing of course, especially when accounting for the quality shown throughout this penultimate track.
Freestyling with his soul has always been an admirable strong point of SC’s and as the band prepare for their “last one”, my mind races with the possibilities of what’s to follow. Somewhat fittingly, ‘Pleasure Yourself’s closing track ‘Into the Night’ ensues, soothing and sedating as it does.
Impressively maintaining the high-level majesty displayed here in front of a staggered and hooked home crowd, TFs have surely done Bristol proud. The upbeat finale still encapsulates that steamy, introspective poignancy that sets TF a few miles apart from a now bland and ordinary crowd.
If you haven’t heard the impossibly catchy ‘One Day my Baby will leave you’, beware because it’ll stick inside your head like one of those horrific chart tracks that sometimes breach your safeguards, only this is sure to induce the opposite emotion and eliminate any need for rescue or recovery.
Speaking with SC after the show, he tells me the disruptive mouthpieces at the back of the room were well out of earshot and that considering this had been a live show in Bristol, it had been great. From an abandoned stage, we both watch highly motivated fans flooding a mobbed merchandise stand.