Pure Love + Chain of Flowers @ Glee Club, Birmingham – 18th July 2012

Breaking up is hard to do! This age old adage will have been no more apparent than to the hordes of Gallows fans who, almost a year ago to the day, were informed that their beloved Frank Carter was to leave the band that he’d led for the previous six years. In July 2011, Carter issued a statement announcing his departure from the group, citing the all too familiar reason pertaining to musical differences: “Myself and the rest of the boys have different ideas regarding the sound of Gallows going forward.” This decision, leaving both the fans, and the rest of the band bereft of the hugely charismatic frontman’s talents.

Like a spurned lover, those dismayed at Carter’s decision to leave may have been left asking themselves the inevitable post-break up question, “Was there someone else?” There was! The ‘other’ person in this instance was part time Hope Conspiracy guitarist and former member of The Suicide File, Jim Carroll.

In tandem with the news of Carter’s exit from Gallows, came the announcement of his next undertaking, the reason we are all packed into the Glee Club tonight, the Anglo-American union known as Pure Love. Reaction to Carter and Carroll’s new offering has been mixed to say the least. Venture online to any website relating to Pure Love or Gallows, and it is not long before you are presented with a deluge of opinions on the new direction. Though many cheer for the new Carter / Carroll offerings, for some, the new material is deemed so far removed from Carter’s previous incarnation, that they accuse him of having sold his musical credibility in favour of a more mainstream appeal. That said, was it not Gallows that chose to sign a major label deal with Warner back in 2007? What were their intentions with that move?

Support for the evening comes from Cardiff based sextet Chain of Flowers. Although a relatively new band, in spite of this infancy, the group appear self-assured and relaxed as they break into their first song. Following this, the silence as they say, is almost deafening. A genuine first for me, never before have I witnessed such a poor response from the seemingly apathetic audience. The band persevere with the next couple of numbers, each followed by little or no appreciation. This routine is only broken when the lead singer decides to employ the always guaranteed noise generating “show some appreciation for the headline act” technique. A masterful stroke, finally, some form of acknowledgement from the audience.

I was impressed with the way Chain of Flowers carried themselves. The only reason I can see for the lacklustre response may have been down to their sound being slightly too “shoegazey” for the many Gallows fans gathered here tonight.

Any doubts as to the audience’s motivation to ‘rock out’ tonight are extinguished within seconds of Pure Love arriving onstage. Carter emerges carrying several bottles of beer, which he proceeds to distribute to the clamouring hands in the front row. He is followed soon after by the towering figure of Jim Carroll. A vision of shiny hair and tattoos, Carroll straps his guitar on ready to rouse the crowd from their Wednesday night doze. Almost immediately, Carter and Carroll vacate the stage and position themselves right in the centre of the audience, the crowd envelops them, and a quite incredible performance ensues.

Despite this being the bands eighth show, and having only released two singles, the audience are in fine voice, with many singing along with Carter word for word on unreleased songs like Beach of Diamonds and Anthem. Carter acknowledges the impressive choral accompaniment, and the enthusiasm of the crowd several times throughout the evening. He thanks everybody for coming along, jokingly referring to the night being “one expensive band practice”, were it not for the faithful surrounding him.

At this juncture, Carroll returns to the stage, whilst for Carter, things go vertical. The chords for Bury My Bones ring out as Carter is hoisted above the crowd, the noise levels build and the room goes off. The tattooed figure of Carter slowly makes his way towards the right side of the room, not through his own choice, you would imagine. He is finally deposited upon a plinth from where he is able to survey the room whilst hanging from the smallest of mirror balls. The delight on Carter’s face is wholly apparent as he soaks up the fervent atmosphere, before launching himself back onto the sea of raised arms.

Carter is slowly drawn back towards the centre of the room, the crowd anticipating a return to the stage, though not just yet. The London based member of the Pure Love duo is more than happy to continue proceedings from his lofty perch. Carroll and the rest of the band are ready to begin the next song. Before this can happen, Carter will require a prompt as to the next one as “he forgot to tape the set list to the ceiling”. The band burst into the new single, Handsome Devil’s Club and once again, the place erupts.

The band plays for little over an hour, not surprising when you consider how little material they will have readied for live performances. Considering how few shows the band has played, the performances of all concerned cannot be faulted. You really get the sense that this is just the beginning of something that will build and build. With a support slot with Paramore lined up, plus the Reading and Leeds weekend, you really could see Pure Love attracting an even bigger following by the time the new album is released in October.

It is likely that Pure Love will not play the Glee Club again. Not because Carter demolished significant amounts of the ceiling panels during his crowd surfing antics, but because the venue will not be large enough to contain the audience I anticipate the band to have garnered next time they roll into town. In response to those detractors, who claim Carter and Carroll are selling out by pursuing their Pure Love project, you are right of course. If by selling out, you’re referring to venues the size that most bands could only dream of.

Review: Chris Curtis

Photos: Steve Gerrard

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