Saturday, 30 April 2011

Live Review: Mazes, Spectrals and Best Coast at The Queen's Social Club, Sheffield

It may be possible to come up with a venue that's more stereotypically Sheffield than The Queen's Social Club but you'd be hard pressed to think of how. A working men's club that's recently been hosting proper gigs, it still has signs up informing parents that is their responsibility to keep their children (that is under 14 year olds) under control during the bingo. Appropriately it looks to be a full house tonight, and who can blame the Steel City for wanting in on this fantastic line-up – it's so good that someone of the standard and draw of Mazes is opening!

But what an opening act. Taking to the stage as a three piece, with guitarist Jarin having to sit the tour out they've a great dynamic. Looking every inch the slacker kids the sight of three guys just playing straight up fuzzy guitar pop completely unpretentiously is one hell of a sight to behold. The crowd respond really well with cheers much louder than one might usually expect for an opening act. On their third song they play 'Most Days' and it's sublime. Mazes are the band that we've so many others to be. The Vaccines who've had to slog at it. Let's Wrestle with that bit more spark. The only real problem is that they don't play for long enough. Still it's more than safe to say that they've won a few more fans in Sheffield and that their star will rise from here. If album A Thousand Heys doesn't appear on plenty of end of year lists then we might as well all pack this in now.

Second support are Spectrals, who're possibly the band who least look like a band ever. The heat of the venue soon makes them shed their jackets however and singer Louis Jones comments on how his complexion (he's very ginger) isn't suited to the temperature. Interacting easily with the crowd Spectrals play a solid set of old fashioned pop music that wonderfully showcases their talent. With hints of Phil Spector they could quiet easily challenge Last Shadow Puppets for retro pop supremacy. Playing songs from forthcoming album Bad Penny they're certainly ones to keep an eye on.

Still, it's Spectrals bezzie mates that most of the audience is here for – Best Coast. Despite coming from the other side of the world (Spectrals from Wakefield, Best Coast from California) there's a kinship between the two groups in their love for retro pop. But where the former replicate theirs on stage true to record Best Coast ramp up the volume for a garage rock fuzz-fest.

Anyone who follows the Best Coast twitter will be aware that Bethany Cosentino has a reputation for being a bit of a brat. Tonight in fact they open with 'Bratty B' from last year's phenomenally successful Crazy For You, but from the evidence on display tonight it's a reputation that's completely undeserved. Her easy going charm and sarcasm means the whole crowd warms to her instantly. She's fun, funny and an excellent pop star. The album's title track is the moment where everything gets into full swing for the group and it's clear that they've enough songs at their disposal even this early in their career to continue to climb.

'Boyfriend' is dispensed with fairly early on in the set, and it's clear that the whole room knows the words. Proving that it's not just the Bethany show, Bobb cuts a great figure on stage providing the melodies to underpin his more glamorous bandmate's gritty guitar thrashes. It's at this point that KPL regrets standing right next to the Stage Left stack. It's really loud and with the heat in the room somewhat disorienting. Still, Best Coast are used to the heat, Beth constantly swigs from a glass of cider that rests on her amp and at one point borrows some sunglasses from somewhere for song. Although she may be the only person in the world who can get away with wearing shades indoors she decides against it when the tint means that she's no longer able to see the dots on her guitar.

Unsurprisingly, the biggest cheer and crowd excitement of the evening is during 2009 single 'When I'm With You'. It's delivered with such aplomb that it's physically impossible to not smile. The mainly female front row are dancing like crazy and are joined by Spectrals keyboardist for the fun. Along with a couple of newbies it sees the end to what's a surprisingly long set. It's neatly half 11 when Best Coast leave and KPL is shattered. Shattered but very happy.

Excellent gig. Excellent venue. Excellent lineup.

If Mazes, Spectrals or Best Coast come through your town you are under strict instructions to go and see them.

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