” You should be bigger than you are Kidda …’kin AWSOME”.
Blokes like the guy who shouted this out at the end of the gig tonight night make a reviewer’s job easy. I could sit for ages trying to put over what he managed to express in a few words and he was right; Exit Calm are a fine live band and are bordering on something special.
If there was any justice they would also be much bigger in terms of success and exposure to match the reputation that they have built over the last few years. Serious gigging and recent supporting roles with Echo and the Bunnymen, the Charlatans and Modest Mouse have helped build up a loyal fan base.
Even though the audience were very much on-side it was hard to shake off the feeling that the four band members were not altogether happy with their lot tonight. Mind you at times it was hard to tell; singer Nicky Smith should have his own entries in the dictionary against intense and aloof. He chose to keep the chatter to a bare minimum piping up only to tell us that he was going to “let the music do the talking” and later to ridicule pundits comparing With Angels to an Oasis song.
Maybe it was the wag chanting “Leeds – Leeds – Leeds” from the back who upset the Barnsley lads.
Thankfully their music did speak for itself enveloping the crowd with the driving bass and drums underpinning Rob Marshall’s soaring guitar effects, together making the perfect backdrop for Smith’s torn, tight vocal. But was there enough of it? These are no three minute pop songs but a set list comprising just eight tunes from their eponymous album doesn’t seem suitably substantial for a headlining band.
Perhaps the venue could have reduced the crowd scene of support bands to give Exit Calm a bit more space rather than have them jammed up against an 11 pm curfew.
The support line up was a local affair. Wolverhampton’s Dogfight Revolution seemed to be fighting sound and technical demons from where I was standing so they need to be seen again to make any judgement and they should have the opportunity to make an impression supporting Exit Calm on future dates. Cannock’s Guile proved to be a more accomplished prospect wandering between a gruff indie and a BRMC -like garage sound with Neal Sawyer really looking the part of the front man; at least from what could be seen of him in the dark.
The Lines have been around for a while and are already established as a prominent Midlands band with the benefit of media exposure, particularly on the back of their debut release Domino Effect. They brought their own following, which was no bad thing, and a few were soon leaping around to their relentless indie rock. The only disappointment was that I never did see the guitarist use his portable theremin.
Like The Lines, Exit Calm have been somewhat spuriously and perhaps unfavourably compared to The Verve. I can’t really see the big references in either band’s music myself although the influences are obviously there. If I’m going to play the dangerous “sounds like” game then to me Exit Calm have more in common with early Levitation or maybe the guitar sounds have echoes of Dark Star era Christian Hayes.
Visually they are a mixed bag with Marshall cutting the most striking figure. He has a somewhat alarming resemblance to Jeff Beck although obviously somewhat younger. The way he hunches over the guitar in concentration is very similar.
Whatever, the resulting sound is distinctive and imposing. Opening with Don’t Look Down the band changed the atmosphere immediately and by the middle of the song with the effects and guitar rising to a deafening crescendo they were well into their stride. The two singles We’re On Our Own and the recent Hearts and Minds were the most accessible songs in the set but Reference and Forgiveness both have the hallmarks of the epic about them. Perhaps this is where pundits make the Richard Ashcroft connection.
Recovery ended the set with vocals and guitar vying for superiority and Smith screaming “you’re never really alone ’cause we all are” over a maelstrom of guitar drums and bass before the sound faded away to “keep the light alive”.
No encore – no time. They should have had more.
Don’t Look Down
You’ve Got It All Wrong
Hearts and Minds
We’re On Our Own
Review – Ian Gelling
Photos – Steph Colledge