The Smoking Hearts + Bet It All In Vegas @ Minsters Bar, Stoke-On-Trent – 9th April 2012

Never let it be said that a band’s greatness is directly related to how many people turn up to their gigs. Example A: The Kaiser Chiefs peddling their watered-down indie-by-numbers to thousands of eager fans every night. Example B: The Smoking Hearts pouring their heart and soul into a blistering gig in front of just 15 people on a Monday night in Stoke.

It may have been that people were worn out after the Easter weekend. It may have been poor publicity. It may just be that not enough people are aware of London’s latest hardcore punk rock n roll stalwarts, but if there’s any justice, that’s all going to change very soon.

First up tonight we have local boys Bet It All In Vegas who deliver a surprisingly accomplished set of ballsy yet melodic tunes. Charlie Hewitt’s vocals have the perfect mix of grit and harmony and the band play with energy and obvious talent. One to watch I suspect.

The Smoking Hearts are touring the UK ahead of the release of their second album, Victory, which should finally see a UK release this summer. Imagine a full-throttle mix of Cancer Bats, Gallows and The Bronx and you might be in the right area. This isn’t music to play while you have guests over for dinner. This is in-your-face rock n’ roll with all the subtlety of a punch in the throat. The fact that less than twenty people have bothered to show up tonight is not gonna stop the band from putting their all into the gig.

The set is a mix of newer tunes and tracks from their debut album, all of which take on new levels of energy in a live setting. Frontman, Ben, scours the room looking for anything he can climb onto while, behind him, his bandmates hammer out solid riffs and thunderous beats, all with a groove that gives their music a celebratory feel. Regular touring as well as opening for bands including The Misfits, Gallows and Bring Me The Horizon has served them well. They’re now a tight outfit allowing them to concentrate more on their performance.

Obviously, playing to such a small crowd means less interaction and feedback from those in attendance tonight but that doesn’t stop Ben from encouraging people to sing or clap along. As far as he’s concerned, The Smoking Hearts are here to have fun and everyone’s invited to their little party.

Highlights include the blistering new track, Seatbelts, but there are no fillers here tonight, and the band’s short, sharp set showcases a band ready for the next level.

So, I encourage you to ignore some of those mainstream bands and, if The Smoking Hearts play near you any time soon, make sure you check them out. I predict a riot!

Review & photos – Steve Gerrard



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