by Sarah Rayner
The Old Queens Head was an odd backdrop for an even odder show. On the skirts of super stylish, aspirational Islington the venue was super-styled with aged decor and eccentric, quirky props – so much so the space felt unreal, like the backdrop for a film set.
Against these surreal surrounds, supports ‘Empire Divide’ enthusiastically offered a combo of heard-it-before, efficiently rocked up pop melodies complete with dramatic emotive crescendos, energetically delivered vocal and melodic riffs – but this sound was nothing new, and excited the crowd to the extent that a support act should: that is, not very.
Then came the highly anticipated main act – who, disappointingly, offered more of the same – though with similar energy and brilliant stage presence.
Young Rebel Set got together in Stockton-on-Tees in 2007, and released their second and latest album ‘Crocodile’ in 2013 (Ignition Records). They created a near audible buzz in the media, so great things were anticipated, at least from an industry point of view, but there was little hint of this enthusiasm the crowd. Still a metre or so shy of the front, listeners seemed reluctant to get up and close with the boys, and showed even less of a desire to stop talking and listen to them.
There is nothing to criticise about the skill or proficiency of the musicians themselves – they gave a great show, throwing themselves into each tune with never a drop in enthusiasm, feeling or love for performance – however this rarely passed on to the crowd, who stood for the most part with arms folded, clutching drinks to chests, occasionally offering a half hearted head bob.
Opening track ‘The Lash of the Whip’ and latest single ’Tuned Transmission’ were met with near indifference, and things didn’t pick up until 2011 single ‘Lions Mouth’ halfway through the set. Highlights were a launch into rock guitar with heavy drum solo during which got the crowd moving for its duration, and the touching single mic duet of ‘Unforgiven’. Five person vocal harmonies were stunningly delivered, but they didn’t excite the crowd until the onset of heavily marketed folk infused 2009 classic ‘If I Was.’ The crowd only seemed interested (a term used in the loosest sense) in the older tunes they’d heard on the radio – the other sounds were, to them, simply head-bobbing filler.
Popularly defined as ‘indie rock,’ Young Rebel Set offered a less than defined sound and unfocussed musical style – melodic pop riffs, touches of heavy rock and a generous sprinkling of classic indie, occasionally diving into Mumford and Sons styled fisherman folk. They compiled such an array of tried and tested sounds that the end result was confusing as opposed to well rounded, and didn’t fully express or reveal the true creative identity of the band.
The lack of interest wasn’t fully down to the boys, who I’m sure had had better shows than this. The crowd was a mismatched melee of suited office workers, glammed up twenty somethings looking for something to do before they went for clubbing and cocktails, amongst indie boys, a few football fans and some older men and women who (due to background rather than age) did not add to the energy of the show. The bar to one side and the booth seating skirting the entire gig space also didn’t help, as people immersed themselves in drink and conversation with their backs to the main act.
This lack of cohesiveness had a great impact on the gig, but then the band were as mismatched as the audience – headed by an art rocker in silk necktie (Matthew Chipchase), with bassist (Chris Parmley) rocking a classic mod look and the fantastic drummer (Luke Evans) looking decidedly indie in tartan shirt and skinny jeans. (Also on stage were Mark Evans on keys and Andre Parmley on guitar). Variety is generally something to be celebrated, but tonight it simply made for a directionless, scattered focus, for which atmosphere suffered.
However the final track of the set ‘Measure of a Man’ showed us what the boys could do, with rabble rousing shouts of thanks from vocalist Chipchase and a closing crescendo that finally got everyone on board – just in time for closing…
Photos: Alexandar Bruce