In what was billed as a stripped-back gig, I was (well, and kind of wasn’t) expecting this to be a rare laid-back Saturday evening in my second home, Ku Bar – but it was anything but.
Teessider Alistair James (real name Alistair Sheerin) is one of the most charismatic, down-to-earth characters on the local music circuit, in my opinion. Always enthusiastic regardless of how small or how quiet the crowd may be, he relentlessly tried to involve the audience throughout, eventually getting a cheer when announcing that he was going to play his original catchy indie-pop track, ‘Have You Ever Been Low’: “Wow, somebody knows it”, he jokingly stated.
Matt Wilde, ex-frontman of what I can only describe as Stockton Legends, Young Rebel Set, was slightly over-powered by the sound of people chatting throughout his set, with some drunken audience members also chanting The Enemy tracks over the top of him – it was a tad disrespectful, especially as Matt is an artist who’s lyrically-driven. Ending on Young Rebel Set classic ‘Lion’s Mouth’, I can’t help but feel that Matt’s performance would have suited a seated setting with an audience listening intently.
Tom, standing backstage, obviously knew that this wasn’t going to be a quiet evening. “Are you ready for a nice quiet one tonight? No? Let’s do this then”, pronounced Tom as he (and his backing band) launched straight into a stripped-back version of ‘Aggro’ taken from The Enemy’s debut album, ‘We’ll Live and Die in These Towns’. “You’re the best crowd of the tour” screamed Tom, as he thrashed into more angst-filled working class songs that resonated with myself and the audience including ‘Away From Here’, ‘Had Enough’, and my personal favourite, ‘We’ll Live and Die in These Towns’.
Finishing on ‘This Song is About You’, this was a night that showed a real connection between Tom and his audience, creating an experience whereby there are no barriers between the band and their fans – it’s how it should be.“Sincerely, thank you Stockton – I love you to bits” declares Tom before chants of ‘This Song is About You’ resonate across the famous Ku Bar walls.