The Jannocks, Samson & Delilah, The Bacillus

Simon Jay Catling 15/09/2009

People may bitch and moan about Manchester's recent reliance on music past (hi NME); but underneath the oft-perceived masculine chest-beating external persona of its musical heritage, still lie dozens of nights where local bands put gigs on for each other, invite mates to fill support slots, and generally ignore the views of us, the music press, and concentrate on putting on some good live music to wile away a weekday evening.

Revue @ Centro is just one such night. It's run by a member of one of Manchester's finest-kept musical secrets Air Cav, and seemingly has no agenda other than to showcase new music that you really ought to hear. Which, considering the tiny Centro bar is situated right in the heart of the city's ultra trend-driven Northern Quarter, is no mean agenda to try and keep. Opening up tonight in a Centro basement semi-filled with a pick n' mix assortment of other band members, curious students, bar regulars and even the odd fan, are post-punk oddballs The Bascillus. With an appearance that suggests at least three of the four band members were around to see the original incarnation of post-punk, it's no surprise that the group tread a very familiar line, taking in obvious Wire and Television-influences. It's an inauspicious start to the evening; the band's lead man bounces nervously on his feet throughout whilst songs come and go without managing to gain any of the anxious energy their singer so dearly wants. At one point it all gets very odd indeed, as he “coincidentally” receives a phone call from a girl he's just dedicated a song to; a brave attempt at alternative showmanship, but one that ultimately falls flat on its face. The Bascillus simply don't possess enough of a knack for melody to really grab an audience, David Byrne-inspired vocalist or not.

But things are about to get better, a lot better. I manage to get a seating position for one- 21 and my knees are shot, it's a crying shame- and an unassuming five-piece called Samson & Delilah find themselves standing on stage. There's an instantly likable chemistry to Samson & Delilah; a feeling of real friendship between the band members. There's no posturing, no preening, just a simple satisfaction of getting to be on stage with one another. It helps, of course, that they're playing the sort of uplifting traditional folk-leaning music that can set hearts aflutter. Flutes dance and frolic over acoustic guitar and stoic double bass, whilst vocal harmonies intertwine to push songs into subtly grandiose crescendos. The strongest moments, however, focus on building up songs around a lone female vocal; occasionally this leads to a gradual addition of other band mates' voices, whilst at other times the solo melody battles to stay out of reach of a thumping, disarmingly grabbing, bass drum. The quintet aren't afraid to push into poppier territory either; the band's rousing finale is driven by hand claps and pleasing hooks; it's a performance that both fits in comfortably, and yet far outstrips, its intimate surroundings.

It would be wrong, and rather against the feeling of the whole evening, for The Jannocks to try and compete. And they don't; for their world is a relentlessly loud, energetic opposite to Samson & Delilah. The five-piece contains, somewhat intriguingly, a bongo player, in addition to a drummer. It's soon clear, though, that this addition to an otherwise orthodox rock line-up is far from a gimmick; the supplementing verve and rhythm prove a key cornerstone in providing a thick-textured, pulsating backbone to everything The Jannocks do tonight. Starting with a sprawling psychedelic jam, clearly the fruit of a strongly held love of The Doors, the five-piece set about attempting to channel the 60s into an intensely raucous half hour long set. The lead singer is just that, in the truest sense of the phrase; unshackled by a lack of instrument, he's instead free to twitch and writhe in reaction to every note that spits out from behind him. The Jannocks are unashamed in the obvious debt they pay to their influences; trippy wah-wah hazes switch urgently to rock n'roll stomps that ooze-Rolling Stones rhythm n' blues. Half an hour's just about right for them tonight- any longer and the sense of repetition could well set in- but for a short slot, The Jannocks pack in as much of the retro-scuzz as they can, add a touch of Mancunian bravado, and combine it all with energy and guile. It's an appropriate way to end a highly welcoming, occasionally captivating, night of music; and proof, if any were ever needed, that the heart of music still lies in live performance.

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