The City Walls take the next step in their burgeoning careers, but poor sound and a chatty crowd nearly trip them up, Getintothis’ Alan O’Hare views the struggle and leaves impressed.
The first of November arrived with a bang.
The wind bit hard on Bold Street and the rain was falling. There were no leaves to be seen, but Liverpool’s music fans had Leaf in their sights, as four of Merseyside’s most-likely-to took to the stage on the first Friday night of winter.
The venue was to become packed – more on that later – but first up, thankfully for the attentive early birds in attendance, were the delightful Red Sails.
All crafted pop melody and non-fussy arrangements, the five-piece let the piano lead and the dedicated listeners were treated to something special.
Red Sails were good and navigated that thin line between the sea of intimacy and the mawkish waters of sentimentally, well. Definitely ones to watch.
The room was filling up and the noise arrived just on cue, as Sugarmen were next up and brought the loud. Sure, there’s nothing mind-blowing going on, but they make a hell of a racket. The Liverpool lads supported The Strypes here, earlier on in 2013, and are definitely mining the same sky – just from a different cloud, perhaps.
Sugarmen at Leaf, Liverpool
Numbers flew by in minutes and Sugarmen made the room sit up and take notice.
Or perhaps everyone was just straining to hear, as (not for the first time lately in Leaf) the sound wasn’t great. In fact, let’s be honest, it was a wash of bluster and confusion. The bottom end was non-existent and the vocals for the most part inaudible.
A shame, as Sugarmen definitely have something to say and something tells us people want to hear it too. The night was now in full swing and the sold out room was expectant. The Hummingbirds arrived with a spark of excitement and launched into their breezy, acoustic guitar-led pop.
But, again, the sound was against the group. These lads specialise in layers of harmonies and their flesh on wooden instruments, but against the perpetual din of a Friday night out, that something special was lost on this occasion.
The Hummingbirds at Leaf, Liverpool
Not that those in the audience seemed to care. The Hummingbirds’ local following know the tunes as well as the band – who delivered well, in that particular style of theirs. We’d love to hear them in a room where everybody is listening though.
The midnight hour was approaching and headliners The City Walls had an EP to launch. Homefires is a belter and anticipation was in the air (alongside lots of alcohol fumes) as the group, led by singer/songwriter Paul Crowe, quietly built up a great sound.
Switching between Telecaster and acoustic guitar, Crowe has become a consummate frontman and they played great.
The City Walls at Leaf, Liverpool
Lovely melodies, homespun wisdom and attention paid to serving the song all helped lift The City Walls above the rest of the evening – but even their crafted tunes couldn’t silence the din completely.
Too many people were loud, too many people were gathered in groups at the back and too many people showed a lack of respect to the band. Strange, as they’d all beaten a path to get in on a cold wintry night. The music was fab though.
Let’s just hope we can do it all again soon. But, next time, with the bar in another room…
Pictures by Getintothis’ John Johnson
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