“Last train to Rowley Regis”
There is this friend of mine called John. He is very passionate about his music and travels all over the country via the cheapest means possible, criss-crossing the land trying to cram in as much as he can. He has a network of friends who look after him and you can never be sure when he will turn up next. You are probably wondering what I’m going on about and what this has to do with the review. The point is that as was announced by Kip Berman from the stage my mate John “has been to more Pains…. gigs in the UK than anyone else”!.
This is of course in total contrast to me as this was the first time that I’d seen them and to be honest if it hadn’t been for John I wouldn’t have listened to their stuff or really known about them. I certainly wouldn’t have interviewed them for Birmingham Live which I had the pleasure of doing a few weeks ago.
I know John well enough to realise when he is on to something and so it proved. The recorded stuff is very very good, but live they are a different prospect entirely.
The songs all sound a lot heavier. The pop elements that characterised their earlier output have grown into something more edgy and the venue gave them a real opportunity to show how they can communicate with an audience.
The Institute Temple was absolutely packed as the gig had been bumped from the Library for some reason. On the face of it this could have been an error but at the end it actually made for a very good gig – bottling the atmosphere in such a small space. If was almost as if the venue expected a low turnout. I can’t quite understand this, as the first support were local band Rogue States, who had more than their fair share of supporters in the crowd and came across very well even though they suffered from support band dodgy sound syndrome. Because of this they were almost too loud for the venue, but this bunch of “struggling musicians” imploring us to buy their merch, and with sweat flying managed to put across their anthemic tunes with Echoes of Great Empires, being by far the highlight of the set.
While all this was going on the Pains were manning the merchandise (always a good sign) while we waited for Fanzine to appear. I didn’t quite know what to make of this quartet with their Andy Hamilton looky-likey vocalist, something of a cross between Weezer and Nirvana. At least that’s what it sounded like from the barrier. One thing I do know is that their style should have involved some good harmonies along with the hard rock but it wasn’t until their last song Susan that I managed to hear any of it. People did tell me that the sound for them was a lot better further back, so maybe that is where I should have been.
Two decent supports had got the mixed crowd warmed up with all the kids piling down the front waiting for the Pains to appear as the lights all went down giving our photographer a few palpitations as the whole venue was practically in total darkness.
We needn’t have worried because right on time The Pains of Being Pure at Heart took to the stage and the lights came up and we were treated to an intense set including a fair contribution of songs from their latest album Belong.
The new album signals a move away from the policy of the band wearing their influences on their sleeve and live the result was a much sharper, less shoe-gazey feel and one which actually seemed to connect directly to the crowd a fair few of whom were leaping around from the start in their own little mosh a few rows back. It was all very good natured and it was great to hear so many singing along particularly to the new stuff. Having said that the real energy was reserved for favourites from the eponymous album like Stay Alive, Young Adult Friction and Your Love is Fucking Right.
Whilst the band are obviously all contributing to the project its obvious that Kip is the focus most of the time and that certainly seemed to be the case with the crowd. He is a striking figure, quite angular and looks a lot younger that you expect. It was his delight with the enthusiasm in the crowd that got the whole thing going and there was a real connection.
He and Peggy Wang seemed to get the most attention, this was reflected in the fact that for the encore Kip took to the stage alone for the first song from their first album, Contender. They then stayed firmly in the past as the rest of the band rejoined Kip finishing with Everything With You and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart.
No sooner had they left the stage than my mate (and now officially Kip’s) John was shaking my hand telling me that him and his companion had to run for the last train to Rowley Regis. I didn’t even know there was such a thing. It sounds like a good name for a song.
One thing I do know — I’m glad he spent all that time criss-crossing the country because it introduced me to an excellent band and a great gig.
Review – Ian Gelling
Photos – Steph Colledge