Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Live Review: Flash Fiktion, The Neat & Young Knives @ Academy 2, Sheffield

I rarely venture to the Academy. The corporate branding doesn't help, and the fact that since one opened in Leeds bands just don't seem to bother with Sheffield any more. There's some acts that I just can't resist seeing however and when Young Knives announced that Hull newcomers The Neat were to be support for the Artrocker Tour there's no way that Keep Pop Loud could not be there.

Opening act Flash Fiktion played to a gradually filling room, and although they can't be said to have the most original sound on the planet, they came across very well, performing a solid set. Recalling Two Door Cinema Club with their combination of electronic elements and live instrumentation they're essentially Artrocker Magazine's wet dream. Occasional punky bursts of guitar and an undercurrent of Friendly Fires pop nous means that Flash Fiktion are probably going to go quite far.

The Neat are an altogether more storming proposition however. Barely controlled intensity and a ferocious sound, on record they're great – live they're unstoppable. Looking dapper in sharp suits and fringes, singer/bassist Merrik Sanders is flanked by his guitar toting cohorts. 'In Youth Is Pleasure' of course proves to be the highlight of the set, as it would be in the set of most acts but it's not all that they have in their arsenal. 'New Kids' in particular makes us want an album from the four-piece NOW whilst closer 'Hips', which sees Merrik on the front barrier playing in the face of the crowd, leaves no doubt that the audience are going to go away without strong memories of The Neat. Absolutely tremendous.

Thanks to a long day KPL is pretty tired by this point and it seems an age before Young Knives take to the stage. It's not really that long, not when considering how long it's been since we last saw the band closing Fuzz Club, but when they do appear it's like seeing some old friends again. There's no tweed in sight, Henry's even wearing a t-shirt, whilst Oliver, with his 'tasch and large headphones looks like an RAF pilot from WWII. They're the perennial outsiders of pop, but when they open with 'Terra Firma' it's more than obvious how they've gatecrashed the charts.

Thankfully there's a really decent crowd for Young Knives, even if it's apparent that a sizeable amount of them are yet to hear the excellent Ornaments From The Silver Arcade. Any time that a moment from their Mercury nominated debut is aired there's a massive sense of excitement from the audience. 'Loughborough Suicides' sees Henry joke about The House Of Lords vocal “I love it when we play that song,” he says afterwards, addressing House “Your voice is booming. It's like Brian Blessed.”

The hits come thick and fast. 'Human Again', 'Weekends And Bleak Days', 'Part Timer', 'Running From A Standing Start', 'Love My Name' (“let's gloss over the fact that this didn't do very well,” they comment “I mean it really didn't do very well.”) and one of my favourite songs of all time 'Turn Tail'. Even when it's stripped of its soaring string section it never fails to raise goosebumps. The only trouble with it is that it's one of only two songs from Superabundance to get an airing. Still, that's a minor gripe. Whatever Young Knives song play from their catalogue is going to sound fantastic. Especially if that's 'She's Attracted To'. It's not just the crowd that gets carried away during this, House Of Lords decides he can play drums and takes to smacking Oliver's ride whilst Henry leads the “You were screaming at your mum and I was punching your dad” chant.

Joking about the non-event that was Saturday night's rapture Young Knives finish the main set with
'Silver Tongue'/'Storm Clouds' the tremendous two-parter from Ornaments that takes their incredible pop ability through it's paces before walloping us with the heaviest thing they've ever done. Had the world ended at this point we'd have had the perfect apocalyptic soundtrack and died happy. Luckily it doesn't and the band get to encore.

Two House fronted tracks close the evening even though the clock is yet to hit 10. Although 'The Decision' is expected 'Sister Frideswide' doesn't disappoint. “This one's about a sexy nun” the band say before launching into what is easily one of the best tracks of 2011. Of course once this is done it's time for the band to play the song that adorned more t-shirts here tonight than any other. “I wore the blue with the green, I wore the blue with the green,” yes they can't get away with not playing 'The Decision'. If there's another band that can goad a room full of people into declaring at the tops of their voices that they are the Prince of Wales then I really want to hear about it. Endearingly bonkers and proof that Young Knives are truly one of our great bands.

Funny and fun whilst being arty and crazily clever. Young Knives are in that class of band alongside Art Brut that never fail and who's continued existence just makes life that little bit more worth living.

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