Thursday 23rd February
Night & Day Café, Manchester
“I’m happy because I’m stupid”
A gig I almost didn’t make. It sold out literally moments before I tried to book. Then an Ebay fiasco left me high and dry on the day without a ticket, while the friends I’d hoped to go with chose instead to head off to the Academy for Goldie Lookin’ Chain.
What the Hell! I went down anyway and picked up a ticket from someone at the door. I got in just in time for the quirky melodic BC Camplight, fronted by the supremely talented Brian Christinzio, a man with the voice of an angel, and the soul of a true poet. I will admit that the musical meanderings of the first couple of songs left me slightly bemused, but by the end of their amiable and enthusiastic set, including stand out tracks Hide, Run Away and Couldn’t You Tell, I was left wanting to hear more. In addition, the bearded, besuited, bowler-hatted Mr. Christinzio, bringing to mind a Mr. Benn who has really let himself go, became the only artist I have seen to use gargling as a vocal technique live on stage. And I’ve seen The Pogues a fair few times.
A short break later and headliners The Boy Least Likely To took to the stage, opening with the sublime Hugging My Grudge, swiftly followed by a crowd-pleasing rendition of Fur Soft As Fur. Between numbers, the band chatted affably to the appreciative crowd. “Is anyone hot?” Jof asked, prior to revealing that he was wearing long johns. Peter suggested that he remove them for our further entertainment, before launching into the first single, Paper Cuts. Whatever trials I’d had in reaching the gig were quickly washed away in waves of country guitars, soothing xylophones and tales of lost loves and dreams. Meanwhile, Amanda Applewood’s contributions made us realise that there was point, after all, to all those primary school recorder lessons. As they showcased the beautiful and touching tracks of their debut album, the crowd could only grow to realise that here was a band on the cusp of something great, tight musicianship and lyrical mastery coming together with more magic than an evening round at Paul Daniels and Debbie Magee’s. Admittedly it wasn’t a set without its problems. The Battle Of The Boy Least Likely To became The Battle Against The Collapsing Microphone, and Jof had to hand vocal duties briefly over to Peter which, encouraged by all, he managed with aplomb. Hirsute engineer Nigel swiftly saved the day. But time passed all too swiftly – before long we had nodded our way through all of the album favourites: I See Spiders When I Close My Eyes, I’m Glad I Hitched My Apple Wagon To your Star and My Tiger My Heart among them until we suddenly found ourselves faced with the set closer, an exuberant rendition of forthcoming single Be Gentle With Me. Showered with bubbles, we bounced along then called for more. The Boys obligingly returned to the stage, albeit with the cheeky confession that they were about to repeat Hugging My Grudge, disguised with a different intro in the hope that we wouldn’t notice as it had been so early on in the set. Nobody minded. How could you? It would take a heart of stone.
And then they were gone. I heard via text that it had all kicked off across town at GLC, with scrapping down at the front. No chance of that here, I thought, judging by the beatific smiles on so many of my fellow audience members as they passed me on the way to the door. Glowing inside, we spilled out into a chilly February night, where we were further warmed by the news that tickets were already on sale for the return to Manchester on April 30th. Catch it if you can. But make sure I get my tickets first, please.