Wednesday 2nd October 2013
at the De Montfort Hall
By Trevor Locke
Last night I went to the De Montfort Hall – not something I do very often and the last time I was there was when I was at the last Summer Sundae festival.
The show was opened by Room 94 a band from Hertfordshire, the capital of pop/rock bands which (according to their Facebook page) is regarded as being ‘North London’ and comprising three brothers and a bassist. The four members included lead singer Kieran Lemon and a singing drummer, Dean Lemon. Room 94 reminded me of McFly, the band that had closed the Summer Sundae festival back in 2011. It was all sweet and lovely.
Pretty much all the seats in the circle had been taken whilst on the ground floor, people stood in front of the page, filling well over two thirds of the available space. It was a very girly crowd; most of them teenagers and about 80 per cent of those who were there, were female. One thing this crowd was good at was screaming.
The first thing I had to do was to learn how to spell Paighton (notice there is no ‘n’ in the middle.) As luck would have it, they had put up two banners on either side of the stage with their band’s name on, giving their address at Twitter and Facebook.
The five band members from Nottingham looked younger than the headliners. They had a lead singer, Joe Atkinson, who shared his vocals with the Keyboard player, Andrew Thomas. That gave them a good vocal layer and the songs had strong melodic lines. Good at interacting with the crowd as they introduced the songs, Lawson delivered a polished performance and set of enjoyable songs.
The two support acts were confined to half the area, a curtain cutting off the back end of the stage. The five members of Paighton had not obviously dressed up for the show. They looked like they had come on stage in the same clothes they had put on when they got out of bed this morning. Costumery is not something that comes naturally to today’s rock bands. Whilst they mainly played their own songs they did throw in easily recognisable cover. Summer of 69, a song recorded by Bryan Adams, is one I know well, having heard Leicester band Formal Warning singing it, many times, when it was a standard part of their set list.
Like Lawson Paighton went it for a lot of audience participation and the Leicester crowd was ready to give it all they got. Singing back to the songs, clapping and arm waving in all the right places, Paighton’s pleasantly tuneful music went down well. A forest of mobile phones twinkled in the auditorium; a large proportion of the audience wanted to capture as much as they could of the live experience. Paighton has a new song coming out in October.
The audience waited for the finale act. At the front of the stage were three mic stands, each with its own piece of carpet and I could see sets of pedals for the guitarist and the lead singer.
Lawson‘s appearance at the DMH was part of their Everywhere We Go tour which started on 30th September in Doncaster, before moving on to Bristol, before arriving here in Leicester. Earlier this year Lawson has been touring in America. Lawson is Andy Brown, Adam Pitts, Joel Peat and Ryan Fletcher. At ten past nine two thousand girls started to scream at the top of their voices – time for me to put in my ear plug.. Lights began flashing behind the white curtain shielding the back of the stage until at last it dropped to the floor to reveal the four members of Lawson and their stage set. Smoke billowed around the stage and a hefty amount of production lighting swung into action. Lawson’s opening song packed in a goodly level of beats and the audience rose to their feet and joined in with the choruses. Several thousand people had paid good money for those seats and there they all were – standing up. Well I guess the standing only tickets might have sold out.
The three front men of the band were their in those dark skinnies; this is no ‘boy band’ – the members of Lawson looked like mature twenty somethings. The guitar players all had wireless instruments, so they were not ‘chained’ to the spot and in fact at times they strolled up the ramps of the set to play on a platform over the head of the drummer on his riser. Lawson’s stage manner reminded me of Kasabian – not overdone, by very cool, polite and polished.
The one thing I particularly liked about Lawson’s music was their rich vocal layer – with three good singers at the front – this did for it for me. I like singing bands. Singing bands that play guitars. I rate them more highly than the boy bands with their microphones and music played by other people. Lawson is a true band, a real band, who both write their own songs and play their own instruments. This is the one direction that I think all bands should go in.
It was clear that most of the audience knew all their songs by heart. Lawson’s set list had plenty of chanty sing-alongs and with the festival-level lighting that the DHM is so good at, you get a good show for your money. I noticed that the lead vocalist changed his guitar several times during the set, a roadie handing him a fresh one each time he needed a different sound for a particular song. If one of them ever did break a string during a set there would certainly be no borrowing a replacement from another band.
They played a song from their new album; it had an almost r ‘n’ b feel to it and it was another opportunity for the audience to clap along to the compelling rhythm.
Andy Brown, lead singer and guitarist, introduced a “slow song” though most of their songs were slow by comparison to many contemporary indie bands who revel in fast-tempo numbers. Andy Brown asked everyone to stand up for this song – which they all did – and 4000 arms went up in the air. Then came some bouncing. It was clear that the majority of the audience knew their songs well.
It seems Lawson played at the Musician on 6th April 2010 before they got signed to Polydor Records. They remembered the gig – “about eight people had turned up for it.” Ah we all know those kind of gigs around here.
Several girls in the audience were holding up placards with messages written on them. Lawson showed how they were masters of the big bouncy ballad. For one song, bass and snare drums were placed on the platform over the main kit and Adam Pitts went up there to play them.
Andy Brown was left alone on stage for his acoustic number; the last song from the album Standing In the Dark from Chapman Square, 2012. Andy told the fans “This is the most personal song I have written” as hundreds of camera phones were turned on and held up to record it. With this in the lyrics
I’m standing in the dark
She’s dancing on the table
I’m looking through the glass
She’s someone else’s angel
It may sound stupid that I’m wanting you back
But I’m wanting you back, girl
And now I’m standing in the dark, dark, oh
you can see what he meant. It was a captivating moment and one of the highlights of the show and the crowd loved it. They mentioned their recent tour in the USA. Their next song “was a favourite for our American fans.” A bass drum was placed at the front of the stage and drummer Adam Pitts worked it with his foot while shaking a rattly thing and a tambourine. All three of them sang and there were some fine guitar flourishes with reverb effects from the pedals.
Between songs the tour manager climbed on the platform to take a photo of the four musicians, their backs to the hall and the throng of fans in the background. Very much part of the tour, with Andy Brown walking around with a small video camera at one point. We’ll have to check out the band’s wall to see what appears there.
Lawson seem to like quiet intros that build up into robust chanty choruses. So, what did I make of Lawson at my first exposure to their live music? Well, I have to say, I liked it. For me, it ticked all the boxes, as it very surely did for the other 1999 people who were there that night. Their (almost) last song had some rap vocals in it – though I think this was sampled from another artist as none of them appeared to be singing them.
They walked off stage but the house lights stayed down so it was not long before they were back for a couple of encores – one of which was Everywhere You Go. It was a memorable melody. At the end they locked arms and bowed to the audience. Yes they actually bowed to the audience. Well that impressed me.
Lawson’s songs were compelling, chanty and full of magic of beats and rhythms that were ear-pleasing and listenable. I think they rocked. They smashed it! Did they make a fan of me? Yes they did. Would I go to see them again? Yes I would.