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Billy Seagrave joins the Slow Readers Club on a triumphant homecoming night to remember in Manchester
Over the last few weeks there has been a real buzz emanating on the Manchester music scene, and not the kind of buzz generated by marketing hype.
The venue is Gorilla Manchester, tucked away under the railway arches opposite the Ritz. With a capacity of 650 it normally caters to bands making the step up from smaller venues before they proceed, so they hope, to those ever-bigger stages and audiences.
The Slow Readers Club's Plant the Seed tour arrives home to a sold out Gorilla after shows in London, Sheffield, Birmingham, Liverpool and Leeds, and having received justified acclaim for the music and performances alike. With shows in Preston and Glasgow still to come after tonight, momentum is now firmly on the side of the Club.
This year has seen the band step out from the shadows into the light, building on the foundations they've solidly established over the last couple of years.
Highlights to date include regular airplay on both BBC 6music and the radio station formerly known as XFM, as well as a sell-out headline show at Manchester's Academy 3 ahead of tonight’s sell-out gig. Their music has drawn comparisons with Interpol, the Killers and the National.
As the band take to the stage there's certainly something in the atmosphere, their supporters having turned out in force, eager for another barnstorming live performance. What's probably more important is that the band are as eager to take the stage: this gig is as much a show as it is a thank-you to those fans for the loyalty and love that they've shown in those early days.
The Slow Readers Club begin proceedings with the unmistakable introduction of 'Start Again'. Vocalist Aaron Starkie's prowess has grown along with the band's standing, and follow-up tracks 'Sirens', 'Days like This Will Break Your Heart' and 'Don’t Mind' have the crowd singing along at the tops of their voices. The band are confident, self-assured and on form.
When this current tour began, the Slow Readers Club were one of Manchester’s hidden secrets, a guilty pleasure, but it’s now time to share this pleasure around.
'I Saw a Ghost' brings things to another level with the crowd as fully engaged in proceedings as the band are. Aaron has a charm and charisma that he delivers in a manner befitting a frontman firmly establishing himself as an emotive and intense performer. He's admirably backed up by David Whitworth, who provides the drive and rhythm on drums, and Jim Ryan who bangs out a mean bassline. Lead guitar and backing vocals are perfectly provided by Kurtis Starkie, Aaron's brother. It’s been a long time since a band has come to the fore as a complete unit, and the Slow Readers Club have got it going for them like few others at the moment.
'Forever in Your Debti, 'Plant the Seed' and 'Feet on Fire' galvanise the link between band and fans - this is the essence of tonight, because the success of the Slow Readers is a simple one. Not only is the music memorable, it is perfectly crafted around each of the members of the group who offer so much, but deliver so much more.
'Know the Day Will Come' brings to an end a night that firmly sends the Slow Readers Club away with the confidence to make 2016 a year to remember.
The Plant the Seed tour has been about four guys who have built a reputation for great music and wonderful performances alike, but if anything the band's joint fifth members are the fans who have bought their music and turned up with their friends.
This is the sort of band where those friends in turn have introduced more friends, and tonight has been infectious, on many levels.
Photographs by Billy Seagrave