I’ve never got on with the restrictive confines of an all seated venue when it comes to live music gigs, but aesthetically speaking I have to say that the Buxton Opera House (BOH) beats any comparable concert hall I’ve encountered by many a splendour-filled mile. Sadly it’s not all about looks, as illustrated by tonight’s Lightning Seeds show.
A lacklustre one-man show from Michael Murphy (a fifth of Liverpool’s The Wicked Whispers who failed to make it tonight) gets the slovenly proceedings underway. Now, it’s easy to kick someone when they’re down but rest assured I’m more happy-go-lucky than happy-go-kicky, so please forgive any sub-standard reviews this solo act attracts.
To ridicule his winkle pickers or ‘shroom hairdo would, due to personal taste, prove to be unfair; the visually striking singer-songwriter’s at least had the decency to get on stage to perform a solo set without the sound and style of his band who surely make more sense of my aforementioned musings.
Somehow, using just a small selection of chords, Mr. Murphybeat manages to summon some softer Simon and Garfunky/ Haight-Ashbury heyday sounds which is in itself an impressive feat. But (I know), with his sloppy fingerings and ‘clever’ lyrics close to “you think you’re a pilot, you take off at night,” I was left feeling a little short-changed.
Whilst reminiscing about Manchester legend Vini Reilly for two good and relative reasons, the BOH stirred from the mild stupor induced and prepared for the main event. Ian Broudie alongside his son (Life of) Riley (guitar), Martyn Campbell (bass), Angie Pollock (keys) and Sean Payne (drums); ladies and gents... the Lightning Seeds!
A Woody Allen-esque IB greets the crowd with “Hiya... y’alright” before getting into the set which saw a wondrous AP away with the fairies and away from the boys, adrift in her own little world, which despite the tight knit performance stayed as focal point whilst the crowd adjusted as did the front of house sound engineer who had just discovered bass!
This wholly acceptable yet somehow non-engaging format prevailed throughout ‘Ready or not’, ‘Imaginary Friends’ and most of the anthemic ‘What if’, before IB addressed the crowd: “Intimidating venue I know, but sing along... here’s Sense, it’s an old one... they’re all old!” Seemingly freed from the collective reservation now, we each awoke!
Grinning smugly as he rightly should, all shared his new found sense of solidarity as the evening (really) begun, to what’s now grown into an approximate 90% capacity crowd. ‘You bet your life’ is one of the LS earliest tracks, yet effortlessly attracts the most applause so far, but certainly not enough to steal the best moment of the night!
“I’m in Buxton and I couldn’t find my water!” a distracted IB imparts on an appreciative audience and it’s heart-warming to see that his scouse sense of humour hasn’t yet succumb to cynicism, as the non-offensive ‘Change’ comes and goes with impossibly little impact or interference, as a hesitant yet delight-fuelled IB introduces ‘Life of Riley.’
The entire house is clapping stomping and clearly set for singing as its intro practically shakes many a majestic cupid from their ceiling-side seats during a true testament to the comfortable, guitar wielding Riley to whom the song was originally dedicated; there must be quite a bit of father and son-borne pride enveloping the stage as a scrawl this!
Onward with a David Bowie song which we’re told “you’ll know it if you know it” which only a few of the now silent and spellbound crowd seem to recognise. Immediately after ‘The Prettiest Star’ we’re treated to ‘Cigarettes and Lies’ which oddly echoes the work of Future Pigeon and perhaps Dr. Alex Patterson’s better known Orb.
Before I re-establish my professional position, personal favourite ‘Pure’ automatically lifts me from my seat and for a second leaves me with a strong urge to dance as I sit once more. IB said “you might wanna stand, nod your head or swear all the way through this one” at the outset of the song and boy was he right! The BOH is alive... it’s alive!!!
‘Sugar Coated Iceberg’ keeps the upright grooving away just as they had throughout ‘Pure’ (while I stay sat for your benefit!) and as if that wasn’t enough, ‘Lucky You’ follows to further invigorate the rooms vibrancy. The LS are getting their collective freak-on too, although RB notably maintains his cooler-than-cool kid expression.
After the shortest of intervals which reassuringly saw the roadie plugging in a guitar to the sound of an a cappella stage-bound chant of “you fat custard (?!)” greets the encore which surely can’t feature any hits at this late stage in the game, right? Well, if like me you forgot ‘Marvellous’, you’d be dead wrong!
An awesome build up escalates into frenzy as people take to the aisles and shake their booty and AP particularly catches my eye as she channels the spirit of sorely missed Manc’ Rob Collins during one hell of a jam. The band are loving it every bit as much as the crowd who barely register the reprise proceeding ‘3 Lions’.
Always a cheese-bearer in my books but nevertheless I know I’m alone with my misgivings tonight and the song serves as a true testament to the LS who close on their biggest hit which is overshadowed by the likes of Pure and Marvellous which were particularly impressive tonight as they were a decade ago.
A smirk glances across the face of RB who hasn’t yet grown sick and tired of hearing the ’men’ in the crowd chanting “footballs coming home” after the song which was played with less enthusiasm than the crowd warranted. IB makes way for AP as they leave the stage, offering a little insight into IB, a father and musician and evidently a gentleman.
Review and photos by Ant Standring.