Charlie Simpson: Deaf Institute, Manchester – live review
Deaf Institute, Manchester
14th May 2014
Charlie Simpson brings his special brand of post teen angst to the Deaf Institute. Ian Critchley reviews.
I entered the ballroom-esque bliss of the Deaf Institute and realised this place had become my favourite venue in the city centre. I settled into what had become my unofficially reserved spot at the back and waited for a night of music which would be headlined by a man who had reinvented his creative wheel and come out with the stench of roses, receiving the well deserved acclaim of being seen as a credible musician.
But before the headliner there were two support acts to deal with. The first came in the form of Rob Lynch, a one man acoustic tribute to the style of pop-punk made famous by bands like The Get Up Kids and The Ataris. Looking like he had stumbled off the set of Hollyoaks, Lynch charmed the audience with genuine politeness and gratefully thanked them for arriving early. This was reciprocated with warm applause and appreciation. The set ended with a song which, due to the lyrics, I imagine was called My Friends And I. A great closer and easily the best in his set.
Big Sixes came out like the bastard child of gypsy folk troubadours Gogol Bordello and Simon and Garfunkel. Utilising three part harmonies, the group were pushing the boundaries of what has become conventional “acoustic rock”. But this garnered mixed feelings, and it seemed many in the audience were left perplexed and unable to get to grips with the very dissonant lead vocal.
Charlie Simpson took the stage soon after, accompanied by his backing band. But the Fightstar lead wasn’t the only celebrity performing tonight, his lead guitarist was none other than TV comedian Jimmy Carr (not really). Expecting something akin to his more upbeat contemporaries, such as Frank Turner or Mumford & Sons, I was surprised when the evening took a much more downbeat tone, with Simpson pouring out a bucket load of post-teen angst over minor chords. But this wasn’t a bad thing, even though more sullen than expected, as the broody timbre of Charlie’s voice matched this atmosphere to perfection. And any time things got a little too bleak there was a comedy rise in the over-enthusiastic hand gestures of the band’s extra instrumentation/backing vocalist. After a brief intermission the group returned with everyone bar Charlie clad in shirts that showed the main man as a Simpsons character (Simpsons … Simpson … never mind). As they played their final songs I couldn’t help but wonder why a man who had every opportunity to capitalise on his past was playing such relatively small venues. It wasn’t the music, that was of a calibre that either matched or surpassed others swimming in the same genre pool, and I hoped that it was down to Simpson himself. That he had intentionally turned down the “big opportunities” and found a much deeper sense of fulfilment from the intimacy of a small room than from four figure ticket sales.
All words by Ian Critchley. More writing by Ian on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive.