It’s good to be at a sold-out gig. The Cockpit is packed and people are excited and noisy. Up front the crowd is nicely jiggy and shouting nonsense at the band, who respond in kind. Further back is the usual layer of folks who don’t go to many gigs and only really get excited when Hounds Of Love is played at the end – fortunately the band play up to it.
Last time I saw the band they seemed to play fast and flattened the tunes. Tonight, they give a masterclass in confidence and pace, aided by The Cockpit’s decent acoustics over the crap sonics of Leeds University. The set is tight in all the right places and loose in the right spots. Songs are delivered taut but false starts and cock-ups don’t throw them and Ross and Barry spend the evening in banter with the front row and repartee with each other.
Opening with Chaos off the new album – only just out as the gig is played – new single Heartbeat Song follows straight after but soon they dig into older stuff; ‘Worry’, is off the second album – “we don’t play many off the second album because they’re quite slow”, says Barry. Then, of course, they play it fast. Barry Hyde is confident and sweating, resplendent in tailcoat, T-shirt and pinned-on rose. His hair seems to be getting taller. “Beetlejuice”, shouts a lass from the crowd. Ross Millard, Barry’s foil, is energetic and solid in his presence, hammering speedy licks from his black Telecaster. David Craig on bass is overshadowed by the duo and keeps to the side, playing a constant speedy click.
After Walking Backwards, Ross spots someone peeping over the monitors: “I see you looking at the setlist – don’t spoil it for yourself, sonny. That can change at any time if you don’t behave yourselves”. The second album reappears in the form of This Is The Life. “I love this one, Ross. Do you know why? I get to see you shake your booty suit”, says Barry. It looks like they’re having fun. Inevitably, Hounds Of Love arrives and Ross divides the audience into two halves for singalong fun. If it weren’t that this band is from Sunderland, I’d compare it to the pantomime performance Newcastle’s Lindisfarne put on at their annual reunions. Jupiter, off the new album is described as “our Bohemian Rhapsody”, opening on gentle strumming before the usual blast.
And with that, it’s into the encore countdown….
Beginning Of The Twist, Yes / No and Man Ray are dispatched with aplomb, finally kicking off a moshpit. When a crowd’s front rows have spent the gig mouthing along with the lyrics, I wonder why they’ve waited so long. Barry stops some crowdsurfing with a mere look at the participants. Personality is strong in The Futureheads and their Mackem expressiveness and vocal tics suit the songs well, ranging over far punkier topics than most. That’s helped the band get over the longevity that hampers bands that’ve had some chart success – it inspires fanaticism and that keeps smaller venues full. Our faith in indie rock is restored.