Photography: Stuart Moulding / @oohshootstu

HOOTON TENNIS CLUB

Harvest Sun @ Invisible Wind Factory 9/12/16

Before heading off to this gig, a friend expressed great envy that she wasn’t going herself, and said “ooh, they found the dog!” Wallph, a missing dog feared stolen, she explained, posters about him all over town, was found by HOOTON TENNIS CLUB. It threw up an image of the band of going out and fighting minor crimes across the streets of Merseyside, or snuffling out lost pets at least, in a 2016 cockapoo-whispering episode of Scooby Doo, or The Monkees telly show.

Because that’s a bit what Hooton Tennis Club are like; four affable types; happy, turn-that-frown-upside-down characters. And they’re true to form as they lollop on stage tonight, friendly puppies themselves, and we’re warmed by their smiles.

Starting with Growing Concerns, O Man, Won’t You Melt Me? goes down especially well and single from the first album P.O.W.E.R.F.U.L. P.I.E.R.R.E is always a live favourite. Bootcut Jimmy The G is slightly loopy, and loved by the audience.

Bass player Callum McFadden takes on the mantle of showman, throwing himself about the stage, the middle visual that shouldn’t work in theory but does anyway. We nearly got the splits from him this evening… very nearly. Next time, maybe. Vocalists Ryan Murphy and James Madden share and swap roles easily and casually, as Harry Chalmers powers away on drums.

Hooton Tennis Club have released two albums of quality pop songs in consecutive years, but it’s reassuring that there’s still something schoolboyish and ramshackle, and slightly off the cuff about them. Ryan has a snapped string early on in proceedings. He asks for a replacement instrument, explaining the situation with an apologetic shrug. And when we heard a rumour he was going to be playing his new guitar later, made out of a Dunlop tennis racket, we assumed tongue-in-cheek Hooton Tennis Club larks, but no – it proved to be true. It’s a relief that Hooton Tennis Club have lost none of their charm.

Songs from Big Box Of Chocolates, triumph, the crowd giving them as enthusiastic a reception as the old songs, the ones that aren’t so old after all. This new grown up album shows the band as a tighter, more confident unit than ever before, with a performance this evening that does the recordings proud. We are left with no doubt that Hooton Tennis Club are playing amongst the big boys and girls now, snapped strings and novelty tennis rackets or not.

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