If rock ‘n’ roll comes in waves, then Birmingham’s perennial favourites The Clause look set to make a very big splash indeed. They’ve been lauded on the local scene as top talents for a while now, but post-pandemic they’ve set their stall out to attack with a full UK tour which includes their biggest hometown headline show to date, a widely anticipated sell-out at The Mill in Digbeth.
The 4-piece make it clear from the outset that they’re out to impress, the lights going down as frontman Pearce Macca leads the smartly-dressed band out to an intro tape that melds into opener ‘Electric’, fuelled by the kind of dirty riff The Black Keys or Miles Kane would be proud of and inviting the excitable crowd to chant the title back. Things really spark into action with last year’s single ‘Time Of Our Lives’, a belter of a fast-paced indie anthem that gets the crowd bouncing and the band clearly having fun as guitarist Liam gleefully pulls some classic rock ‘n’ roll poses during the chorus.
“We are The Clause and this is our city!” shouts Pearce to huge cheers ahead of ‘Don’t Hate The Player’ and this is where the band’s versatility begins to shine through with a disco-inspired bassline courtesy of Jonny Fyffe that recalls Blondie’s ‘Atomic’ and shows off a different side to the band. On the flipside comes glam-stomping single ‘Cruella’ which goes down a storm and set highlight ‘Dig This Beat?’, a high-energy rush that captures the excitement of early Britpop and allows Liam to shred his guitar impressively.
Things start to mellow a little with the soaring ‘Forever Young’ and Pearce takes a minute to reflect on the band’s beginnings playing in “dingy cellars” around Birmingham, whilst acknowledging the “difficult couple of years” faced by everyone and thanking the crowd for turning up en masse. Taking it down even further with a semi-acoustic ‘Where Are You Now?’ which could easily be a Courteeners ballad and has the crowd singing along, Pearce dedicates the track to friends no longer with us and the band depart the stage. “Going offstage for an encore? Who the fuck do we think we are?!” laughs the frontman as they re-emerge to huge cheers and finish off with a run-through of some of their older singles.
In some ways ‘Tokyo’ and ‘Sixteen’ might sound a little more like straightforward indie rock ‘n’ roll tracks and less developed than some of the rest of the band’s set, but they’re welcomed by the audience and the latter in particular is played with a blast of energy that picks the set right back up before closer ‘In My Element’ finishes the set on a high and has everyone dancing and singing along even after the track comes to an end. Tonight proves that The Clause are ripe for the picking, not just to conquer Birmingham, but to take on everywhere else they can reach as well.
The rest of the bill features plenty of fresh Midlands talent, and Coventry’s Candid put in a breakthrough bid of their own tonight with a set designed for much larger venues, of which they’ve already had experience on the main stage of last year’s Godiva Festival. Opener ‘Divide Us’ immediately grabs the attention with a massive rock riff and emotive vocals from frontman Rob Latimer.
Tracks like ‘Concrete Jungle’ about their hometown have an expansive indie sound that could fill arenas in the same way as the rockier side of Stereophonics, but it’s that slightly heavier edge that makes them more interesting. The closing trio of ‘Numbers Game’, ‘Lost On Me’ and ‘Wasted Time’ show a band that are more than capable of building something special and they sound pretty much flawless tonight.
Taking a solo acoustic spot is Lloyd Ballard, with a campfire singalong set which goes down well with the crowd and sees covers of tracks by Blossoms, Arctic Monkeys and local favourites The Enemy alongside a couple of well-received originals including ‘Won’t Let You Down’. It’s a fun change of pace in the evening and serves to warm up the audience well, and with a little more stage confidence Lloyd could become a captivating performer.
Early arrivals are treated to a fantastic opening set from Nottingham’s The Chase, who have been playing together since they were schoolkids and as a result have a chemistry that holds their poppy indie together nicely with a punky edge.
Opener ‘Black Cloud’ has the kind of propulsive energy seen in bands like Catfish & The Bottlemen, with sharp guitars and a full-on performance that is the perfect wake-up call for people just entering the venue to take notice. With keyboards enhancing the sound but never overpowering the rest of the band there is on occasion a nod to the psychedelic indie of The Coral as well as a ska influence in places, and frontman Tyler has enough charisma to get the crowd singing along early on in the evening. As well as having an impressive set of songs ready to go, they play with a cool confidence that should set them up nicely for the future.
Photographs: Ian Dunn
Review: Ian Paget