Puressence + Sea Fields + Junkyard Morning @ Academy 2, Birmingham – 5th November 2009


The fifth night of the Sharpen Up The Knives UK tour proved to be a taxing one for Puressence in more ways than one.

Some bands are amazingly laid back when faced with a bad case of the gremlins. Over the years Puressence have seen it, done it and printed the t-shirt so it was no real surprise when in the face of seemingly unfathomable guitar problems singer James Mudriczki led them off the stage for an unplanned five minute break with a cheeky “we’re going to let God take control and see what happens…”


All this after a cracking opening to their set but with third song Walking Dead proving an apt time for some piece of equipment or other to give up the ghost, leaving guitarist Lowell Killen immersed in a hectic process of elimination trying to find the culprit.

Tricky as this episode was for the stage crew it was not all bad. The remaining band members struck up an unexpected Ironstone Izadora and a few bars of You’re Only Trying To Twist My Arm before leaving the stage. It seems a bit churlish to concentrate on just one aspect of the band but to me the power and emotion of Puressence’ music stems from James’ vocals and this gave us the opportunity to hear him with only bass and drums as accompaniment.


It’s a pity that there were not more in the audience to appreciate this impromptu performance. But not even a small crowd could dampen the band’s spirits with James joking with the audience, “move closer and make the place feel more empty”, and changing song titles: All I Want “is for the gear to work”.

Dedicated followers of the band may wonder what Sharpen Up The Knives is all about. As a compilation it cuts a swathe through the best from the four studio albums and even the inclusion of three new songs can’t hide the fact that this is fundamentally a “best of” album. Perhaps it is aimed elsewhere; Puressence are a far cry from the understated UK cult phenomenon in other parts of the world. They have made a huge impact in Greece with another series of dates and TV appearances in the pipeline later this month. Several Greek fans even made it to drizzly Birmingham.


Perhaps they don’t have the “Manc” baggage to deal with over there. Too easily labelled as Manchester’s best kept secret or merely another Stone Roses-inspired band this does Puressence a huge disservice. Over the years they have more than dented the UK charts and recent forays into the US download charts show that they have a far wider appeal than the handful of dedicated followers in the Academy would indicate.

The new songs are not just packing for the greatest hits. The single Raise Me To The Ground carries on where the last album Don’t Forget To Remember left off yet Our Numbers Oracle is more reminiscent of the eponymous first album and certainly harder and heavier live. Of the new material In Harms Way is the stand-out song combining the passion and the potency of the vocal and guitar.


For the most part this balancing act works on the live stage but there were times tonight when the sound became muddy and a few on-stage monitor problems made it difficult for the band to hear the vocals. As a result the key feature of their music got lost on the odd occasion emphasising the importance of that sound which makes the albums compelling listening.

When the whole thing works it makes for epic, anthemic sounds. Burns Inside built up into India to finish the main set and at last the flat, tentative crowd got into it. Fair play to one chap in particular who seemed to be on a one man mission to liven the place up, leaping high in the air all arms and legs flailing and somewhat unnerving the people around him.


The impetus was maintained for the encore, ..Oracle, This Feeling and Sharpen Up The Knives and all thoughts of dodgy guitar gear were long forgotten.

Locals Sea Fields and Wolverhampton’s Junkyard Morning offered entertaining support on the night but they struggled with the lack of bodies at the front of the stage.

In the end the night was a triumph over Bonfire Night indifference, variable sound quality and gremlins but it’s difficult to shake off the feeling that with their quality and the power and passion of their live performance, Puressence deserve better than this.


Set list:
Near Distance
I Suppose
Walking Dead
Ironstone Izadora (Vocals and Bass only)
You’re Only Trying To Twist My Arm (Vocals and Bass only — first few bars)
In Harms’ Way
All I Want
Make Time
How Does It Feel
Standing In Your Shadows
Solid State Recital
Raise Me To The Ground
Life Comes Down Hard
Burns Inside
Our Numbers Oracle
This Feeling
Sharpen Up The Knives

Review – Ian Gelling

Photos – Steph Colledge

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