At the end of their set, Carol Hodge and Ben Marsden cover one of the classics by one of the finest duos this country has ever had – and it suits them perfectly.
“Ain’t No Pleasing You” by Chas And Dave (and for clarity, I adore them, I’m not being ironic) and somehow it suits the set perfectly.
The pair are excellent songwriters themselves (the set is split between Hodge songs and selections from Marsden’s bands The Main Grains and The Spangles), but they are clearly having so much fun when they play. Laughing their way through “Clean The Slate,” and while “The Price” – dedicated to Ginger Wildheart and usually featuring him on vocals – and the likes are more serious, they are not delivered seriously, as it were.
The Spangles (MV proudly was ‘one of the three people who’d heard of them’ in the crowd) are a personal favourite, and “Get Over Yourself” and “I Don’t Wanna Go” prove my favourite adage of any great song can be played acoustically to be correct again. And if “This,” which Hodge reckons sounds like Flash Gordon, means I have to mention Queen on the site against all my will, then it’s a brilliant epic in fairness. Hodge and Marsden are most odd but most agreeable.
Rob Baynes might be fronting the first gig The Howling Tides have played in the second city for years, but the singer has things on his mind. The toilets.
Baynes reckons, you see, that the bogs at the Hare And Hounds are the best he’s ever seen at a venue. MV would only add this: I’d love them to play more to see the facilities elsewhere.
The Midlanders are magnificent. Their EPs are great, they’re always superb live, but they don’t play many gigs it seems.
This one, though, is the best I’ve ever seen them. They seem to have an innate confidence here, and given 45 minutes, they can really flex their muscles and give the full range.
“Cut Your Losses” and “Angels And Fools” are excellent, but it’s “Blue Moon” – the title track of last year’s EP – that kicks things into gear. Blues-infused, and not a million miles away from the likes of The Cold Stares, it seems to move this onto a different level, which makes “Idle Hands” rawer than you imagine.
“Cheap Painkiller” from their early incarnation proves they’ve always had the skill, but it’s “White Crow” that convinces they are built to last, and “Crack My Soul” is a real freak-out.
To see The Howling Tides is to love them, and if it’s feasible, they are a band that is ready.
Second song in here, Ginger Wildheart And The Sinners play “The Road.” It is one of a smattering they do that wasn’t on the brilliant debut album they stuck out last year. It starts with the words: “It’s been a while but damn it’s good to see ya.”
That’s the point.
So let’s deal with the elephant in the room. Ginger Wildheart is not here, but The Sinners are, partly because this show was canceled last year, partly because they’re raising money for Ginger’s treatment for his mental health issues, and mostly because they’re a damn good band who love playing live.
Frontman (and tonight the sole one) Neil Ivison had looked nervous when they played “That Smile,” but by the time he’s trading Allman Brothers licks with Sam Wood (Black Star Riders/Wayward Sons, etc.), who is standing in for Ginger on guitar, there’s a genuine smile of warmth.
After doing one of Ginger’s, “The Words Are Gonna Have To Wait,” they do Quo’s “Dirty Water” and the wonderful Georgia Satellites’ “Six Years Gone” before they do “Walk Of Shame,” one from the next record that may or may not come out, but which when they’d played it last Autumn, Ginger had seemed so full of hope and joy about.
Ivison dedicates “Willin'” to his dad, recovering in a nearby hospital, and is embarrassed by his full-on solo in “Not The Staying Kind,” and then does the album standout, “Arms Of Love.”
There’s a “fake encore” after “Footprints In The Sand” (“there’s nowhere for us to go,” reasons Ivison), but what it means is that Hodge and Marsden reappear for a run-through “Geordie In Wonderland” which – as should be expected – the crowd knows better than the artists before a real collective effort on The Band’s brilliant “The Weight,” where Rob Baynes was superb.
“In my head, this was like Live Aid,” Ivison had smiled before, and he’d also added that he thought the best review of this would be “better than I expected.”
I’m not sure where this leaves me, given that I was expecting it to be excellent, and it was.
The Sinners are planning to play a lot more shows, and this first gig together like this must surely have convinced them that it was a very good idea indeed.