Tribes pared down for an acoustic set whilst New City Kings rolled into town for the latest gig in Durex’s ‘Intimate Sessions’ in West London. SupaJam were on hand amongst the lucky 250 people to witness the coming of age of one band and theearly tentative steps of another.
New City Kings
The time is 8:30pm. Bounding on stage with a sense of purpose and poise, Chelmsford’s New City Kings quicklyintroduce London’s Bush Hall to their approximation and brand of Anglo-American rock with fervently impassioned dispatch.
Backed by the thumping grooves of a tight rhythm section, Ben K’s guitar playing offers dextrous and lithe leading lines. It provides a nice delicate contrast to the firm handed accompaniment behind him.Mark’s vocals roar and soar in and amongst the grit and the dirt conjured by the four-piece. Collectively, they toy with their songs’dynamicsin a teasing and flirty fashion, whilst it becomes overwhelmingly apparent that they are only ever the slightest twist away from an explosive chorus. This is all extremely effective and memorable.
Occasionally though, as the set progresses, they are increasingly guilty of the sort of indulgences that should remain within the annals of 70s rock, which is not necessarily sensible in a half hour set (drum solos, anyone?).
There is also a slickprofessionalism here that arguablylacks any discordant vitality. Their melodic sensibility doesn’t allow for it. Any voyages into the realm marked ‘challenging’ is waved away. Then again, whether it’s a virtue or a downfall will depend on opinion. The huge roars that greet the end of each number offers ample confirmation that this is a pleasing concoction for the crowd in attendance.
This is a sound built for spaces grander than the modest confines of Bush Hall. If originality is lacking, the potency of their panoramic sound is undeniable. It is a tone tailor-made for radio airplay and stadiums.
Over all, this was a confident display by a band who know that they have what it takes. They promise much, and they have the tools to succeed. They are ready (and willing) to make a dent. They just need to trim those excesses slightly. It would be wise to keep your eyes peeled for these New City Kings.
So, how about the headliners? Two records into their career and forging a distinct path, how will they treat this small scale show?
Well, the answer is best put as thus;it is like a joyful campfire sing-along raised up onto a stage and transported to the cosy confines of someone’s (admittedly sizeable) living room. Tribes arrive at the appropriately titled ‘Intimate Sessions’ with stools and acoustic guitars in tow.
In contrast to the support, they offer a louche sight, replete with unkempt hair and an aloof cool.
Johnny Lloyd and Dan White take their places and rattle through a set with occasional accompaniment from drummer Miguel Demelo who provides additional guitar. Together, they emanate a pleasing and harmonious accompaniment without strangling the life out of the material. Lest we end up with some sort of middle of the road aural comfort food. No one wants a weight watchers version of indie. What you want is rustic charm and ramshackle yet effective (and affective) sincerity. Tribes offer this. Their lyrics drip with observation and there is that perfect and beguiling balance between detachment and engagement. It is that tightrope walk that hallmarks all the very best of groups. To veer too extreme on one side or the other is a recipe for either a charismatic void or alienation through arrogance.
Watching and listening to them, Britpop influences cut through. Songs like ‘Sappho’ stomp (acoustically) in Supergrass echoing glory. ‘When We Were Children’ offers its wistful 90s-referencing chorus to the resounding bellow of a crowd in unison. In fact, to single out songs is a disservice to the consistent quality of those performed.
The naked exposure and inevitable scrutiny of a stripped back set is always a cause for concern. However, these songs stand up.
It takes a special act to make an acoustic set compelling. If the key to making your mark is writing songs with catchy choruses, strong lyrics and incessant melodies, then Tribes have it. They have it in spades, ‘Baby’.