- She Drew The Gun
- Cut Glass Kings
A performance by local lads made good, whether they be from Merseyside, Humberside, Wearside or any other side, will always garner a particular frisson; a ‘one of us’ air of camaraderie. This feeling is palpable inside Mountford Hall tonight for the return of THE CORAL. The band’s five-year hiatus ended in 2016 with the release of the album Distance Inbetween and a series of live shows, but unfortunately their homecoming performance at Sound City 2016 was cut short by technical problems, so we didn’t get to see the best of them. Fast-forward to the release of this year’s well received Move Through The Dawn and a triumphant Skeleton Coast Festival performance in September, and the appetite of tonight’s audience has been well and truly whetted.
Support comes from the Skeleton Key roster in the shape of Birmingham’s CUT GLASS KINGS and local go-getters SHE DREW THE GUN, currently riding high with new album Revolution Of Mind, which is garnering plenty of positive press coverage and airplay.
A decent sized crowd are in the house as two-piece Cut Glass Kings get us off to a rollicking start with some heavy riffing, wailing feedback, echo-laden vocals and pounding drums in a well received set.
You can hear ’em before you can see ’ em: She Drew The Gun, hidden behind a curtain of blue light, blast straight into their politically charged call-to-arms Resister. The lights swing upwards and out across a sizeable crowd revealing singer and guitarist Louisa Roach in full New Romantic attire. Why should her stated aim of “dismantling capitalism” be dressed down in bib and braces blandness? This Queen of The Wild Frontier is gonna look cool on the front-line.
The country tinged vocal of Wolf And Bird, the driving rhythms of Pit Pony and Resister Reprise and the spoken word Poem, delivered solo by Roach over a delicately picked guitar motif, provide a varied soundscape for her overt messages of grassroots activism. “See you on the dancefloor,” says Roach as the band launch into the agit-pop of No Hole In My Head to the full support of a pumped up audience.
Somewhere in a corner of the room the ghost of Woody Guthrie applauds, before slipping out into the rain to sing on a lamp-lit street corner for pennies. As usual, he’s working against the grain as there are many more people slipping into the room to enjoy the classics soundtrack being played between sets; Tom Petty, Steely Dan, CCR, T.Rex and the like, keeping people nodding and smiling in a mixture of cosy recognition and bubbling anticipation. By the time The Coral hit the stage to an explosion of sound Mountford Hall is jammed. It’s about to get sweaty. The Coral’s 20-year legacy and heroic local status ensure that the crowd need not be won over; everyone is here to move a little closer to the songs already kept close to their hearts.
Eight (full length, studio) albums in and there’s a lot of songs to choose from. The setlist is harvested from seven of those albums with a judiciously sourced cover thrown in for good measure: The Yardbirds’ sublime Heart Full Of Soul. With its groundbreaking Eastern-influenced guitar fuzz, it’s a perfect fit in this 20-song set.
They kick off with Move Through The Dawn’s Sweet Release, a song whose driving rhythm, instant guitar hook and lyrical repetitions draw an immediate, ‘punch the air’ response from the cheering crowd. They keep things hot with the martial drumbeat of Chasing The Tail Of A Dream and the dead end street punch of Something Inside Of Me before giving the crowd a breather with Secret Kiss. It’s a track which highlights The Coral’s ability to combine the romantic and kitchen sink drama to great effect: “Jewels and pearls, and all the wonders of the world, mean nothing until I return, in time for tea, sat on my settee”, James Skelly opines.
It’s quite obvious from the ensuing response that the crowd are here to listen as well as to party. The band themselves are quickly into their stride. James Skelly’s echo-laden vocals on point, Aviators protecting him from the glare of the bright lights. The rhythm section of Ian Skelly (drums) and Paul Duffy (bass) is augmented by Jack Prince’s percussion which adds depth and flavour to the live sound allowing Paul Molloy’s lead, Skelly’s rhythm and Nick Power’s keys to embellish with a mix of shimmering pop melodies, punchy riffs and soaring psychedelia. The chiming keyboard motif of In The Morning is “doo-doo-doo”ed back at them by a joyful crowd.
The middle of the set is defined by 2016’s Distance Inbetween, its slightly more expansive and rhythm-orientated sound propelling us through the set. It doesn’t have the motoric darkness of Wooden Shjips for example, but there are hints of their rhythmic intensity in a compelling Holy Revelation and their fuzzy glow in Million Eyes. At this point I find myself on more than one occasion getting into the groove of a song only for it to be brought to an abrupt end. I wasn’t after a 10-minute guitar solo, but another couple of minutes surfing the crest of this particular wave would be nice. However, The Coral have always adopted a less is more approach (many of their songs come in at under three minutes) and are well aware that the beauty of pop lies in its brevity. They manage to cover so much ground during this set by keeping things just so short and sweet.
Several more songs from the latest album prove that the crowd are as well versed in the new material as the old and Reaching Out For A Friend and Eyes Like Pearls sparkle and shimmer along with the best of them; the latter placing the classic geographical pop metaphors of deep ocean and wide valley in a lush landscape.
They wait until the end to go back to the beginning with an encore double hit of Goodbye and Dreaming Of You, both rapturously received and sung with gusto by the dancing crowd. Looking around at the smiling faces it’s safe to say that The Coral gave the people what they wanted.