52% intelligent. 9% modest. More monkey than bear.
Monday, 10 March 2008
(he loves it when you call)
The Feeling @ Nottingham Rock City, 10th March 2008
When I last saw The Feeling in this venue, in November 2006, I said "it's impossible not to smile when listening to The Feeling, but there's no denying that they are the cheesiest band I have ever had the pleasure of watching perform live. LB described them as the M.O.R. version of The Darkness, and that's an excellent comparison. Like The Darkness, the joke worked brilliantly for one album, but it will be fascinating to see if they can sustain the interest with the second album. The Darkness failed dismally and disappeared straight up their own noses. I wonder if The Feeling will be any different."
Well, the resounding answer to that is that yes they can. Some of the synchronised guitar solos might be a bit reminiscent of the Darkness, but that's the only thing about them that is. The new album is certainly more of the same, and you could perhaps argue that it's not a massive step forwards, but you don't have to look very far past that 1970s sound to hear some great tunes and to see that Dan Gillespie-Sells knows his way around a pop song (even though from a distance he is starting to look more than a little bit like Alex Kapranos from Franz Ferdinand). In fact, although many of these songs sound superficially like 10cc or ELO, I think a lot of The Feeling's songs would still sound good if they were performed in almost any other musical style. "Sewn" as country and western, perhaps? "Love it When you Call" as bluegrass? Why Not? "Never Be Lonely" as ragga? Well, perhaps not, but I think these songs are good enough to transcend that syrupy 70s light-rock that superficially covers them.
Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself. Tonight's crowd at Rock City is very similar to the one last time, and perhaps this is a typical Feeling crowd. There are lots of people queuing in the rain to get into the venue as the doors open as we walk past to find a restaurant for our tea. When was the last time you turned up to a venue before the doors opened? Perhaps the first couple of gigs you ever went to? Exactly my point. These people turn up very early and they make their way to the barriers at the front of the stage. They are obviously very big fans of the band and they sing along to every song, but they are essentially very static, and this gives the venue a strangely passive feel even though it's clear that the band are going down a storm. People also seem oddly aware of everyone else's body space, and instead of the usual scrum at the front, people are keeping a polite distance. Of course, the knock-on effect of this in a sell-out is that the fringes of the venue are unusually tightly packed, and for the second time ever I am forced to watch the gig from the balcony. The band burst onstage with current single "I Thought It Was Over" and then take us straight into "Fill My Little World". It's a furious pace, and surely they can't keep this up?
Apparently they can though, and new songs are blended beautifully with older songs and the pace is kept high from start to finish. Of course, some songs are received especially well, and from my vantage point on the balcony, I get a great view of the guy at the front with the hip-hop baseball cap perched on the top of his head. Surely he's in the wrong gig? Ah no, he's singing along lustily to "Sewn", along with pretty much everyone else in the venue. It's a great song, and the band are able and confident enough to play a couple of notes and then leave the first verse entirely to the crowd. They're all very accomplished musicians too, capable of swapping instruments and harmonies with ease... perhaps a legacy of their background as session musicians... perhaps their obsession with the interlocking guitars and harmonies of the 70s springs as much from their virtuoso talents as musicians as from anything else: they do it because they can in the same way that The Horrors play shlocky and low-rent punk because that's all they can play too. Between songs, Gillespie-Sells sounds as though he is struggling with a cold, but he never mentions it as an excuse and I struggled to hear any difference in his performance as he belts out all of the songs with real gusto. I thought the voice may have gone completely when he suddenly leaves the stage in the middle of a song, but he returns soon enough and later cheerily informs us that he had to disappear because he managed to split the seam in his trousers and that although it was only the third day of the tour, he'd already run out of underpants and was rather worried about giving the front row an eyeful. To be honest, I'm not sure that some of them would have minded at all.
It might be early in the tour and they may be plugging an album that has only been out for a few weeks, but this certainly is a confident band - perhaps a sign that they are extremely comfortable with the material they are flogging. Gillespie-Sells is happy to split the audience into two halves very early on and to orchestrate a sing-off to "Never Be Lonely" and the new songs are blasted out with rare gusto. We also get a cover: last time it was "Video Killed the Radio Star", but tonight it's Phil Oakey and Giorgio Moroder's "Together in Electric Dreams". It works perfectly and goes down a storm.
Was there anything I didn't like about the gig then? Not much, although I have to admit that I do find it slightly hard to escape from the indie-snob in me that wants to sneer at them. They're a good band, but for me they will probably always remain a guilty pleasure. I wore my Iron Maiden t-shirt to the gig tonight, and now I think about it, I reckon I wore it when I last saw them too. I think that my psyche is trying to make the not to subtle point that although I might be at a Feeling gig, I LIKE TO ROCK. Ah, to hell with it. They're a good band, and I'd much rather listen to them than many apparently "cooler" bands all the live long day.
Actually, in many ways, the Feeling are a kind of anti-Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong. In start contrast to that bunch of talentless poseurs, The Feeling will never be cool in a million years, but they both know and positively embrace this and probably wouldn't have it any other way. Why not? Well, because much more importantly than any of that superficial stuff, and in direct contract to JL&TJJJ, The Feeling can all play their instruments, they can all sing and they have written some fantastically accomplished and entertaining songs. He might look cool to some people, but I absolutely guarantee that Joe Lean will never manage to write a good song as long as he lives, and certainly nothing to touch "Sewn" or "Fill My Little World"
I first saw The Feeling back in March 2006 at the Social, when "Sewn" had just been released and was poised to burst into the top 5. I said then about their set that "I honestly didn't think it was impossible that they would play a cover of 'Life is a Minestrone'." I still wouldn't have been especially surprised (or disappointed) if they had played that song tonight. It wouldn't have sounded out of place either. How many bands could you say that of and mean it as a compliment? Many bands would fail the "Minestrone" test. I think The Feeling pass the test with flying colours.
A really well-paced set packed full with some truly delightful pop gems, both old and new. A really entertaining night and highly recommended (although as Palladium are backing them for much of this tour, perhaps don't bother to turn up too early, eh?)