It's been a long time since I last saw The Subways. The last time would have been in 2005, around the time of the first release of 'Oh Yeah'. I'd seen them three times within six months, which at 17 was a big deal. And travelling all the way from Peterborough to London to see such a small act play in a tiny venue (downstairs below The Astoria) was a big commitment. Over the years since this my attention to The Subways waned. I grew away from their youthful rock'n'roll and as such when I decided to go see them again in Sheffield (to promote an album I've still not heard) I really didn't know if I was going to get it or if the show would see me stood like an old man at the back watching teenage memories played back on stage.
But before The Subways there's the small matter of support acts. First on are The Dancers, a three piece from France who begin their set very soon after doors open. Luckily The Foundry is filling up fast and the crowd seem relatively attentive. Bouncy and poppy The Dancers manage to recall a wave of mid-00's Scouse pop that didn't get the attention it deserved. With the hooks of The Wombats, energy of goFASTER>> and slight otherness of Elle S'appelle they're a three piece that pack a pocket sized punch. Definitely ones to investigate further.
The Computers are second and are ones that you've more chance of being familiar with, seeing as it is they've made a bit of an impact with their recent album This Is The Computers and its mix of classic 50's rock n roll and contemporary hardcore. To the unfamiliar the set probably sounds a bit samey, but thankfully is delivered with excellent showmanship that sees the frotnman playing from both the front barrier and middle of the crowd. For me it's the rock n roll piano playing that punctuates the punk racket that makes it. It just begs the question: why more bands don't use this excellent sound?
And so onto the main act. There's a decent crowd at least. In fact from where we are it seems like a rather brilliant turnout. Still, there doesn't seem to be much lingering anticipation. Looking around there's the feeling that everyone knows exactly what to expect. Me aside, of course. I'm still wondering if I'm going to get this. Then the band come on.
Charlotte's a ball of energy from the off, bounding across to her bass. Billy gets a roar from the crowd simply from a wave of his arms. Sheffield clearly loves The Subways. Then they OPEN with 'Oh Yeah'. And bugger me, if it doesn't all come gushing back. This is phenomenal. This is everything that used to excite me about rock music and still does today. The crowd are instantly on fire and it's been a long time since I've seen a band on this size stage looking like they're having so much fun.
Although drummer Josh is the powerhouse that propels The Subways it's Billy and Charlotte's show. He's red of hair, shirt and guitar. She's a blur of blonde mane and sparkling gold top. Between his spinning of guitar around his torso and her command of the stage they're two flames burning through hit after hit. It's tracks from the debut that please the most, with 'Young For Eternity' and 'City Pavement' having aged very well and 'Mary' being the out-and-out highlight of the set. “This is a song I wrote about my mum” says Billy introducing it, but it's the look on his face when the whole crowd sing every word back that makes it. Superb.
I'm not sure why it is that Sheffield has such an affinity with this originally Welwyn Garden City based trio. Perhaps it's because Charlotte has recently made the Steel City her home after splitting with Billy. Or maybe it's because Sheffield knows a good thing when it hears it. Songs from this month's under-performing Money And Celebrity album are greeted as well as those from Top 10 All Or Nothing. 'We Don't Need Money To Have A Good Time' particularly gets the crowd into a frenzy. It's memorable if slightly dumb, but all the better for it. This is party rock and roll of the sorts that deserves to be played on pub duke boxes alongside Thin Lizzy, The Runaways and chart-slaying Ash. 'Kiss Kiss Bang Bang' in particular from the new ones sounds fantastic.
'Obsession' sees Billy encouraging an enlargement of the circle pit. “I wanna see the biggest hole you've ever seen in Sheffield” he commands. And aside from the crater on Northumberland Road the crowd succeed. The pit is the full size of the dancefloor. I don't participate though. It may finally be clicking that these early Subways songs were as much love letters to rock and roll itself as they were to his childhood sweetheart/bassist and that running through these is keeping the band young for eternity just as my decent into old-man-hood has been caused by listening to Elbow and drinking too much tea, but that doesn't mean my ankles can leap back into the pit. Not just yet at least.
The fairly straightforward encore consists of 'At 1am' (still their finest moment on record), 'Kalifornia' and recent single 'It's A Party'. It's a great close and I can't help but wonder if Andrew WK feels slightly jealous of The Subways impinging on his territory with a glam-dirty stomper about partying. Either way, it's a more than satisfying close to a set that leaves me with something to think about. I may have gone along trying to recapture some of my younger days, but never would I have expected to have learnt from The Subways.
I had some Monster Munch when I got home.
I feel younger already.
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