Live at Cockpit on Saturday, 7th May 2005
Mangled and angry, the new-look version of Instruction were just as raucous as ever tonight, but seemed to have lost a tiny bit of their sparkle since being rearranged. Strong and simple songs and a hurricane of a sound were the only things they shared with their hosts. Sombre, furious, technically great and ultimately forgettable, Instruction could have been any number of fantastic MOR young rock outfits tonight. I've heard great things about them that didn't prove true this time, but they're only human and this is only one night, so let's wait and see what happens from here.
Providing the angst quota for the evening, Instruction must have left some of the younger members of the audience wondering what on earth could be due to happen to them that was quite so bad. But they needn't have worried long.
Well aware of the musical snobbery which has shoved 'A' firmly into the 'R' for rejects section of many a more sophisticated critic's filing system, the band are clearly loving it. It's their fuel of choice, and they do like to get feisty.
From the opening breakneck riffage of 'Rush Song', it's a virtually non-stop soundtrack of defiance. But not the kind of defiance that comes from rowing with your mum when she hasn't washed your baggies. No, this is pumped full of sunshine and seratonin and aimed squarely at all things dull, piffling and sulky (like rowing with your mum when she hasn't washed your baggies).
This lot know exactly what they're doing, and there's no awkwardness in the stage-stomping confidence with which they do it. Of course, you joke, they've been doing it donkeys years now. Yes they have, and it shows. The set peaks and peaks again through choruses made for joining-in with, as four undeniably very bloody talented musicians give some very welcome bollocks to frontman Jason's 'Sting having a tantrum' vocals and pitch-perfect harmonies. The result is somewhere between the Beach Boys, the Sex Pistols and Iron Maiden, with a bit of trademark marching on the spot. Promoting exercise to the kids y'see.
From their pre-California-singed days, 'Old Folks', 'Foghorn' and 'Monkey Kong' are given a welcome airing, and from commercial breakthrough album Hi-Fi Serious surprise choice 'Pacific Ocean Blue', and less surprisingly, 'Nothing', the song that lifted them from the borders of weird-kid Britrock to the display shelves of the singles chart. The next single sounds like an absolute belter as well, of playful but anthemic proportions, but belies the generally darker and more weighty feel of the new stuff. Whether this will work for them remains to be seen.
But the best part of the 'A' live experience is - and no laughing now - the silence. Not just any silence, but the silence between the penultimate and final choruses of 'I Love Lake Tahoe'. When this was London, we had fake snow. Well it's not London, it's Leeds, and we don't need fake snow because we've only just got rid of the real stuff. In fact no props are required at all as the lights drop, the music stops, and the band waits. And waits. And waits. Finally, after a few minutes of restless anticipation and a hefty amount of acapella from the packed cockpit (not hard, it's just "na na na, nanana..."), they come back to life again with one tiny tap of a cymbal, 0 to LOUD in 0.23 seconds, for the kind of singalong ending that Chris Martin probably has wet dreams about.
Simple and ridiculously fun, 'A' are the musical equivalent of trampolining - "So you're saying all I have to do is jump up and down? That sounds a bit stupid, won't I look silly?... Wow! This is fucking great!". Anyone can understand it. Immediately. Maybe that's where the sneers come from. It's a quick fix adrenaline sugar rush like drinking too much Ribena and bouncing on the bed until you're dizzy, being told off and then vowing to show em all and carrying on regardless. It's unfashionably uncomplicated and giddy with breathless optimism, even when having a go at reflection. Some might say this is because the band are well past their teen angst days. I disagree. It's probably because they never even reached them.