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Crookes - Crookes/High Hazels - Sound Control, Manchester, 22/4/2014

  by Dixie Ernill

published: 3 / 5 / 2014

Crookes - Crookes/High Hazels - Sound Control, Manchester, 22/4/2014


Dizie Ernill finds that the current Sheffield music scene has much to recommend after watching two of their acts, the much acclaimed Crookes out touring their third album 'Soapbox', and new band High Hazels, at Sound Control in Manchester

There must be something in the water in Sheffield these days as such is the quality of these two bands, but as manager (of both) Penny Blackham points out that there has always been a vibrant music scene there - it just isn’t widely reported. High Hazels may be barely two releases old and this may be their first proper tour, but they are confident enough to play a set that only contains three of the six songs they have released so far. That confidence, however, has considerable substance as the songs they do play are quite stunning. Singer James Leesley has the boyish good looks to connect with the young girls in the audience and the voice to win over their mothers. He is a star in the making. His band aren’t bad either as a beguiling mix of trembling guitar parts supplied by Scott Howes and Leesley himself, backed up by the Barlow brothers rhythm section provide a kind of 60’s Smiths sound that is rather wonderful. Leesley’s vocals are special too – part Richard Hawley, part Matt Munro with the freedom of youth mixed in for good measure. 'Summer Rain' and 'French Rue', both lifted from the current 'In the Half Light' EP are a fine opening couplet, but it is the mid set 'Hearts Are Breaking' that is the highlight. As the band’s debut single it is a brilliant first statement. The short set is closed with 'Valencia', which is as huge as the name suggests. This band will go places, mark my words. Headline band the Crookes, buoyed by Government funding and even more so by a just released stellar third album entitled 'Soapbox', have spent five years touring and recording and the hard work has certainly paid off. 'Don’t Put Your Faith in Me' and “Chorus of Fools' kick things off to great effect with singer George Waite diving straight into his role as front man. The rest of the band are far from shy, but Waite is just a seasoned showman, clearly loving every minute. Despite plugging the new LP with great tracks such as 'Howl', 'Outsiders' and ace single 'Play Dumb”, much of the set comes from the band’s extensive back catalogue with both 'Yes, Yes, We’re Magicians' and the Libertines-like 'Back Street Lovers' being lifted from the 'Dreams of Another Day' EP. There are also plenty of songs played from second album 'Hold Fast'. Singles 'American Girls' and 'Maybe in the Dark' are rightly well received, but the moment of the night comes when Waite plays 'The I Love You Bridge' while the rest of the band take a well earned rest. The catchy chorus of "It’s a magic trick an escape from this" is sung back perfectly. It’s a special moment. A blistering 'Afterglow' ends in the set in raucous fashion before the band play an unaccompanied version of 'The Cooler King' in amongst the crowd. With two great bands on her hands, I think Penny is going to be pretty busy!

Also at Sound Control, Manchester

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Crookes - Crookes/High Hazels - Sound Control, Manchester, 22/4/2014

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