Live at Joseph's Well on Wednesday, 15th November 2000
Live music seems to be undergoing some kind of renaissance in Leeds at the moment, with several new venues popping up here and there. Some are good and some fall flat on their arses, but Joseph's Well can always be relied upon for a good night. The infamous sound problems, so often the bane of band's and audience's nights now seem to be sorted out now and the forthcoming installation of a new PA should improve this further, and the beer is always good, unlike a few venues (which shall remain nameless).
Walking into what is now probably considered Leeds' premier small music venue (after the demise of the Duchess) instantly brought a smile to my face because it was packed full of people. I had forgotten England were playing Italy. It still surprises me how many more football fans there are than live music fans - hundreds of thousands of people pay over the odds every week to go to a match when they could be moved far more by a song down at their local venue for three quid. Anyway, I'll put the soapbox away now.
First off, THE EMBASSY took to the stage and kicked off with a pop-rock number sure to please yer mum. Quite clearly accomplished musicians, their swooping melodies and searing guitar solos were impressive and easy on the ear. Perhaps this was their biggest failing - there was no element of confrontation in their songs, nothing to get too worked up about. However, they set the audience's (and my) toes a-tapping with a mix of influences ranging from the funk of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, to the quirky pop of Space, to the laid back rock of the Stone Roses. The Embassy are really tight but allow a bit of space for the looseness that goes with the funk style they occasionally purvey . The singer has a voice which belies his cheeky charm and almost boyband good looks, and could go really far, but needed harmonies at times from one of the others. Strongest song? I don't know what it was called, because the singer rarely spoke to the audience and when he did no-one could understand him, but it is to be their next single. A ballady number with the kind of melody Noel Gallagher would have killed for when writing his last album, it could so easily do well if it's picked up by Peel, Lamacq or similar. Steve Jones said it best on their classic burlesque tune "Friggin' In the Riggin'": "Give it some bollocks!" Come on, The Embassy, you know you want to. Otherwise a damn fine band with a lot of potential.
Next up were the fantastically named SUGARVALVE. Now I don't know about you, but the name "Sugarvalve" conjours up certain images for me. Pop songs rockin' out at some serious steam. The actual thing wasn't too far from the truth. Sugarvalve are ROCK (in big capitals) of EPIC (in big capitals, again) proportions. Imagine Radiohead if Thom Yorke got into Black Sabbath instead of the Beatles. Darker but still containing that catchy element. Singer Nick has an impressive voice which was the focal point of the music, and the other guitarist rocked out with an air of cool unmatched by anyone else on stage on the night. The more upbeat songs resembled a darker Foo Fighters, and the longer slower numbers were more Smashing Pumpkins with Nick's vocals matching the histronics of Billy Corgan. Some of the longer songs dragged towards the end, and overused the phased guitar, but then the last song wiped away the blues left by the last few. This was by far Sugarvalve's best song: simple enough to be catchy yet ever so slightly innovative. Again, they would have benefitted from some harmonies and a keyboard player in places to add to those epic rock moments but Sugarvalve are certainly a band to watch out for in the future.
HATCH were the last band of the night and the Beeston boys didn't start off too well. The singer was off key too often and the first song was totally the wrong kind of song to kick off with. Too slow and didn't really go anywhere. Plus, a tip to any bands reading this: don't go on stage wearing dull clothes. It looks crap. Totally unmemorable and looks like you've made no effort. Hatch were guilty of this last night. So first impressions were poor. After about three songs, suddenly the singer's voice improved about three-hundredfold, and the band followed suit. Hatch were probably the least tight band on the night but this worked in their favour, giving a chilled, almost stoner feel to their melodic rock, shake-yer-butt indie and kick-ass metal. It was nice to see they didn't take themselves too seriously as well, with free pegs for audience members and a presentation at the end for the bass player to receive a certificate for his bass skills. A couple of technical hitches and a poor sound didn't put them off from putting on a good show, and with plenty of practice, some new material and some better stage wear, Hatch could well get rid of their reputation as one of the most underrated bands in Leeds - and actually get cracking on the rest of the country.