You really have to hand it to The Subways. Touring this giant continent is an expensive prospect even for bands based here, so for a relatively small band on an indie label in the UK, you can only imagine what it must cost. Instead of lamenting the situation, they rolled up their sleeves and tried to make it happen; a recently concluded Pledgemusic.com campaign no doubt raised a good chunk of cash, but even by drummer Josh’s own admission, they are still losing a ton of money on this tour. This, coupled with the fact that frontman Billy is off to University in the autumn, suggests that we shouldn’t expect them back too soon either. Therefore, tonight’s show was an absolute must-see.
First up though, is Manchester’s Pins. Remember the video to “Addicted To Love” by Robert Palmer in the 80’s? That’s pretty much what the stage looks like at the start, minus Robert Palmer: 5 expressionless ladies, playing their instruments somewhat deadpan, and in very dim light. A few songs in, the band lurches into life, with frontwoman Faith Holgate roaming the stage like Karen O in Debbie Harry’s body.
The music comes across quite menacing too, a little like Elastica in a bad mood; on Trouble, the whole band chants “if you look for trouble, then trouble you will find!” The band engages with the audience in various occasions, with guitarist Lois McDonald even roaming amongst the crowd during one song. The set then suddenly lifts in mood and concludes in a much more upbeat manner, kind of like the poppier Vivian Girls moments. All in all, a very diverse 40 minutes.
Whilst Pins radiate cool and moody, The Subways are all about energy and fun tonight. It’s been 8 years since their last visit here, and all in attendance tonight have been clearly waiting for this show for a LONG time. What this crowd lacks in size, it makes up for in enthusiasm and excitement, and as the band bound onstage and launch into Kalifornia from 2008’s All Or Nothing LP, the energy is clearly contagious. Bassist Charlotte bounces around the stage tirelessly, hair flailing everywhere, and doesn’t let up the entire set. Billy is no slouch either, and the two seem to fill the stage like it was a basement show from the early days. In turn, the crowd bounces along to this and every other song, roaring back the words in unison.
Billy engages with the audience between every single song, whilst Charlotte makes various attempts to speak French; again, no pretences of cool here, just band and crowd having a good time together. During the bridge and chorus of the classic Oh Yeah from 2005’s Young For Eternity LP, Billy steps away from the mic completely, and leaves it to the crowd to sing, and does the same again during the chorus of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. In-between those, an epic rendition of I Wanna Hear What You’ve Got To Say is a set highlight, with its sedate acoustic Billy-led first verse exploding into life with Charlotte and Josh’s arrival midway through, and still sounds as fresh now as it did in 2004, when this reviewer first saw them at Leeds Festival in England (and almost single-handedly began this 12-year love affair with the band!).
The ultra-heavy intro to Girls & Boys (ultra-heavy by Subways standards, at least!) kicks in and fills the room with its rumbling bass drum and grunge riffs, before Billy and Charlotte alternate lines on the verses in an almost combative manner. The pop-punk perfection of We Don’t Need Money To Have A Good Time brings back the bouncing, following its introduction as a homage to Billy’s friend who was laid off (from an underwear factory!).
On set closer Celebrity, Billy invites the audience to sit down for the second verse, before jumping up and bouncing when the chorus boots in; audience duly obliges. They then proceed straight to the encore songs, and a very stripped down, acoustic With You, which bursts into life after the bridge, before another Billy-Charlotte vocal duel on Black Letter. Is any party complete without cowbell? Nope, and that follows during the appropriately-titled Its A Party. On final song Rock & Rock Roll Queen, Billy again steps away from the mic and let’s the crowd sing the intro, before we all come together for one final raucous singalong. The band finally departs after 75 minutes of pure, unadulterated fun.
Voices and minds were undoubtedly lost over the course of the evening, but one thing is for sure: even if it does take another 8 years for The Subways to come back, it will be a heck of a party, and we’ll all be invited.
Dirty Muddy Paws
Taking All The Blame
I Wanna Hear What You’ve Got To Say
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Girls And Boys
We Don’t Need Money To Have A Good Time
It’s A Party
Rock & Roll Queen
Reviewer – Simon Williams
Photographer – Ashley MacPhee