As this was the first time that I had seen The Lightning Seeds in their own right, outside of festivals and the odd solo outing, I had been looking forward to seeing and hearing perhaps something different. Maybe we would get a set of new songs or a heavier feel, or perhaps the core fans of the band would descend on Leamington from all corners of the UK.
In the end I got what you always get from Ian Broudie: immaculate songs, beautifully written and performed, but also a nagging feeling that there should have been something more.
It strikes me that he is very much a songwriter and musician first, and a performer and front man a distinct second. It doesn’t seem to be a priority. When the band took to the stage accompanied by the intro to Marvellous it was to polite applause with the odd cheer in spite of the fact that there were a lot of real fans around and more than a few scouse accents to be heard. There was no real fanfare or tub thumping from the stage and this set the tone for the first half of the set.
The atmosphere wasn’t helped by the layout of the venue which for some bizarre reason was all seated. I could understand this happening for an acoustic Marillion gig or some folky bloke with a guitar but a lot of the hits that Ian Broudie has produced over the years need people to move around a bit, or even break into a bit of a dance here and there. I don’t know who made the decision but in my opinion it was the wrong one.
The audience, some of whom had made it in late and were stranded at the back (it was free seating), started shouting that they wanted to stand up, leading to a comedy moment when Ian Broudie, not known for his great physical stature, though that the scousers had come to take the rip. All he could hear were shouts of “stand up”!
The layout also had a strange effect on supporting act Wicked Whispers. I realise the new 60s pop that these guys produce doesn’t warrant a mosh but they felt too far away from the audience and almost as if they were in a talent contest.
They were a pleasant surprise and something different. What I had heard and seen of them previously had led me to believe they were some twee version of Inspiral Carpets, what with the hair and the Ray Manzarek organ sounds. But this proved not to be the case. These people are deadly serious in spite of a few tongue-in-cheek lyrics. They have a sound that is stolen from 1969 – 60s power pop mellowed by West Coast psychedelia and the odd bit of Shocking Blue or St Louis Union thrown in.
With The Lightning Seeds we were back with the familiar. For all my hoping this turned out to be was the greatest hits set and of course there are a lot of them. It sounds churlish to complain because they are all great songs. All the one word titles were there: Pure, Sense , Marvellous, Perfect, Change, and the fans all loved them.
By The Life of Riley common sense had taken over as a few stood up and moved towards the stage. The atmosphere lifted making for a normal gig but it was all a bit muted with lots of people happy to stand on ceremony allowing the handful of obvious regulars to lead the charge.
We had the obligatory cover with Bowie’s The Prettiest Star, which again had me wondering why this would be there instead of some new material, but the regular fans seemed happy enough, even with Three Lions as an encore. The band were as tight a snare with a fuller sound now Riley Broudie seems to be installed on guitar and there was no way to fault them except to say that they didn’t seem to get into the higher gears. Even in the rare guitar solos they seemed content to be playing amongst themselves rather than giving it to the audience.
So I was left with that feeling again. I thought it was down previously to festival sets and chilled out acoustic shows but this must be how The Lightning Seeds are. They weren’t helped by an incongruous setting but it’s hard to shake the thought that they should go for it and play Ian Broudie’s new songs, or at least more from the recent album. However, as another scouser Will Sergeant has been known to say “you’ve got to give the people what they want”. I’m obviously in the minority!
Review – Ian Gelling
Photos – Steph Colledge