The Roadhouse, Manchester
When Staines' second most famous residents (Ali G obviously being the first) announced that they were to tour intimate venues, they made no exaggeration. With a capacity of around a couple of hundred, it is the complete opposite of the gig across town where another 2005 breakthrough act, Arctic Monkeys, are entertaining 50,000. The latest date on a whistle-stop tour, the band are testing material from their second record, "Once Upon A Time In The West", due for release September 3.
Cramming onto the tiny stage to many a cheer, the band open up with imminent release "Suburban Knights", which has already become a live favourite due to the "woah-oh" backing vocals of the chorus. Of the other new material performed, "Television" is instantly infectious and a strong contender for a future single, while "I Shall Overcome" also hooks the ear. "We Need Love" isn't quite as addictive, but does provide the opportunity for a sing-a-long at the prompting of frontman Richard Archer, while "Can't Get Along" is forgettable. A rather mixed bag, they don't stray far from what the sound expected of Hard-Fi and should find favour amongst their current fans.
While the unknown songs are greeted warmly, it is of course the old material that whips up the energy of the tightly packed audience. "Gotta Reason" is the first familiar tune to get fists pumping and "Tied Up Too Tight" also raises the temperature, but it is the concluding quartet of tracks that bring the house down. "Cash Machine" and "Hard To Beat" send the crowd ecstatic, while "Stars Of CCTV" provides a brief rest bite and gets every pair of hands clapping. Ending with an extended "Living For The Weekend", Archer mounts the speaker stack doubling as a security barrier and allows various members of the front row to join in with vocals. It caps an intense and enjoyable hour-long set with the band seeming to enjoy themselves as much as those watching them.