LIVE REVIEW: Blood Red Shoes in Manchester, May 5th

Blood Red Shoes got themselves into a spot of bother recently. Drummer Steven Ansell – not known for shying away from giving an opinion – voiced some forthright, and absolutely accurate, concerns about the negative influence of successful bands making ‘safe’ music, naming You Me at Six as a prominent offender. The Twitter backlash from Six’s Bieber-esque army of followers was as vitriolic as it was swift.

For me, the incident epitomised everything I like about Blood Red Shoes. They emerged as a DIY band from Brighton’s punk scene, but aren’t afraid to be ambitious, both on record – see their new one – and in terms of popularity. They’re happy to wear their influences – predominantly American – firmly on their sleeve, and they’re where they are today because of eight years of prodigious touring; there’s been no leg up from money or undue press attention. In an age where rock ‘n’ roll posers have become the norm, a band this genuine is a tragically rare commodity.

Tonight’s the latest in a long line of Shoes shows at the union, and their first since third record ‘In Time to Voices’ dropped; I’m intrigued to see what effect the new songs will have on the band’s traditionally frenetic live dynamic. The answer’s very little. Their first two records remain healthily represented –  their formula of very loud rock songs with poppy hooks and melodies, instigated on the first LP and perfected on the second, was devised with live shows firmly in mind. Only the new tracks that keep the tempo sufficiently high make the cut – the hip hop groove of ‘Cold’ and the simmering-verse-into-explosive-chorus of the title track amongst them.

It’s a tad disappointing – the evening’s one mellow moment, the inclusion of the shimmering ‘When We Wake’ from their second album, only serves as a reminder of how spectacular the epic newie ‘The Silence and the Drones’ could have been, whilst the overlooked ‘Two Dead Minutes’ is surely destined for live-stapledom, its woozy harmonies giving way to explosive guitars half way through, like a grungy Fleetwood Mac.

The move to bigger venues is a natural step in the promotion of a record as honest in its aspiration as ‘In Time to Voices’, but it’s hard not to miss the edge the barrierless rooms lent these shows; tonight’s crowd is lively, sure, but still a far cry from the days of twenty-odd people leading a midset stage invasion in the Academy 3.

Minor quibbles aside, this is still about as blistering a live show as you’re going to find in 2012, as evidenced by incendiary closer ‘Je Me Perds’ almost taking the roof off. If you’re into 80s-obsessed, synth-ridden pop music, you’re sadly very well catered for these days. But if you fancy a good old-fashioned rock show? There’s always Blood Red Shoes.

words by Joe Goggins


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