Middlesbrough Music Live-Much More Like It.
By Elise Brunton
Monday 02 Jun 2008 20:50:00
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I went to Music Live last year, following a brief hiatus when I always seemed to be away when they held it, and was deeply disappointed. Tony Christie was never going to set the crowd alight, the organisation was poor and due to badly placed road blocks, I missed most of the bands anyway trying to get around.

 

This year the early signs were encouraging. Ash were announced as the headliners, taking me back to a couple of years ago, when a crowd of all ages embraced the early 90s indie vibe and swayed to the sounds of Ocean Colour Scene. 

 

I thought Ash were great, but I’ll get to them later. My experience of Middlesbrough Music Live 2008 began with heavy rain and a desperate dash to Walkabout to dry off. Flyers for cheap drink deals plus the weather ensured the bar plenty of custom and once your ID had been checked (I’m nearly 23 but apparently don’t look it) you got your hand stamped by a member of staff to speed up service. I think this is something more bars should consider introducing.

 

Until 2pm, Walkabout hosted an acoustic section which was a bit hit and miss. Getting bored, I headed for the main stage and caught the end of Natty. Mellow Bob Marley-esque Londoner Natty seemed out of place against the grey sky, but was entertaining and somewhat soothing to listen to.

 

And then there was the Wildcats of Kilkenny. Nothing soothing about them.  I’ve seen the Wildcats before at a private wedding reception, but never on an open air stage. I was looking forward to watching them and all my expectations were excelled. Getting the crowd going with repeated renditions of Pigbag, the pouring rain could not dampen their infectious enthusiasm, and every song seems to involve jumping up and down and belting out some variation of ‘ey-iy-oh’, what’s not to like?

 

The downside of these events being free and for all ages is the ever increasing number of aggressive, rude and at times frankly idiotic under-agers who persist in flicking ash onto stranger’s clothes and pushing each other into innocent bystanders. This is a minor gripe because the people are what make open air events what they are, but there are only so many times you can get barged into or have lager (God I hope it was lager) poured over your head without getting a teeny bit irritated!

 

A brief stop off outside Doctor Browns introduced me to Be Quiet Shout Loud, lead singer Jake Radio and his megaphone-and no that’s not a euphemism!

 

Singing about Boro legend Uwe Fuchs, climbing up the scaffolding and generally strutting about in nifty white loafers, Jake Radio and his band (including apparently inter-changeable drummers) brought eccentricity and stomping tunes to the proceedings.   

 

Ears ringing, but in a good way, I made my way back to Walkabout to see 21 Reasons.

 

They were obviously happier to play for a bigger audience than their recent Liberty’s appearance, feeding off the energy of the crowd and serving it back to them in kind. Lead guitarist Nick Smailes did what any self -respecting lead guitarist would do, and attempted to outshine his lead singer. Andy Davidson sang with his usual confidence and charisma but it was Nick’s prodigious talent which elicited the biggest cheers. As Nick stepped forward for an awe-inspiring guitar solo his passion was clear in his every expression (you owe me a fiver for that one Nick!)

 

Sticking around for The Omega 3, I was disappointed that the recent Walkabout Battle of the Bands winners only really seem to turn it on for competitions. They played well enough but they lacked a spark.

 

Back at the main stage I was reunited with my brother for One Night Only.

 

The Helmsley boys did us proud with hit single ‘Just for Tonight’ and warmed the crowd up nicely for Ash.

 

Ash’s lead singer Tim Wheeler is an unprepossessing guy, but on stage he certainly knows how to work the crowd. Ash have been in the studio recently and clearly relished the chance to perform a live set. I inched my way forward, ending up about five rows from the front and happily bounced along to classics like ‘Oh Yeah’ and ‘Goldfinger’. The highlights were ‘Burn Baby Burn’ and ‘Girl from Mars’ which whipped the crowds into frenzy and, had the band finished their set with either of these anthems, I would have been totally satisfied. As it was they finished with a long rather dour number that no-one knew (myself included) perhaps testing out new material?

 

Still for a small band they make a lot of noise and deservedly retain their large following. Most of Ash’s songs work better when belted out on stage by Mr Wheeler; they are a live band in the purest sense of the word.

 

Those too young to remember Girl from Mars went wild for Burn Baby Burn and the majority of Ash’s songs include infinitely sing-able choruses anyway.

 

After Ash there was a choice of Sumo or the after-party at the Empire, however I chose the third of option of home for pizza, having eaten nothing besides candy floss and Quavers since I arrived.

 

My Verdict?-A decent headline act makes all the difference. It’s a pity about the weather but it is a great British summer after all.

 

Thanks to Middlesbrough Council for continuing to host Music Live, hopefully next year will be even better.



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