Space: Fac251, Manchester – live review
16th March 2013
Could Space have emerged from any other city rather than Liverpool? I would suggest not, such is the character of this band, the off kilter mind-set, the warped musicality – Space are the original pop eccentrics; the scope of their influences and their own absorption of such is vast, and is clearly on display as they enter the stage before a rammed FAC251. Frontman Tommy Scott, hair lightly oiled and twisted into a polite quiff resplendent in 70’s wing collared shirt, with a boot string tie; the ensemble is completed with tailored waistcoat and check jacket; think Tav Falco for the pop generation, original keyboard player Franny Griffiths now sporting a Mexican gun-slinger moustache wears a Crass ‘Fight War, Not War’ sweatshirt; bass player Phil Hartley – hair razored to the wood with a huge outgrown quiff, and with a plaited beard that Hagar The Horrible would be proud of…Ryan Clark, the second keyboard player looks like Mr Benn after an unsuccessful visit to that fancy-dress emporium; drummer Gonzo Jones taking the honour of at least resembling a person with a semblance of sanity.
For a four year period ranging from early 1996 to mid-2000 Space with their ten hit singles were rarely out of the charts; they are a band now best recalled for the classic ‘Female Of The Species’ but that is only a fraction of the story, and tonight a revitalised Space set about telling us that tale.
Opening with ‘Charlie M’ and then taking us upon a whirlwind ride between their past glories and tracks from the forthcoming ‘Attack of the Mutant 50ft Kebab’ album Space demonstrated that despite being a pop band – pop being short for popular they remain a band with some seriously twisted and enthralling under currents, dark sardonic humour packaged within infectious melodies – the new Space has more edge, they have a dangerous side – it’s the amalgamation of their influences; the ska infused keys, the rockabilly hog bass, even the older material has taken on a meaty sound and benefits greatly for it.
Tommy Scott is the frontman the majority of bands could only dream of gaining, his particular vocal delivery is in a class of its own, his energy and quips as he introduces ‘She’s In Love With a Boy in a Body Bag’ as though such a situation is the norm and ‘Crying on the Webcam’ shows Scott’s keen eye for the noir…the crowd respond in style, bouncing up and down wildly and when the older tracks ‘Avenging Angels’ and’‘Neighbourhood’ are delivered they threaten to overrun the small stage, Scott is no lone showman; Phil Hartley switching between stand-up bass and bass guitar as the song demands also swaps between front of stage and rear, his presence looming large as he pinballs off Scott…what is instantly noticeable is just how delighted Space are to be in each other’s company and to be playing live once again…a clever re-working of ‘The Ballad Of Tom Jones’ complete with the voice of and image of Cerys Matthews on a rear screen – Space had us eating out of their hands, they could have played safe; just done the hits, but no this band is full of experimentation and rightly confident in the new material; I have never been a big fan, I knew the biggest hits obviously, but I was delighted to find that the ’50ft Kebab’ blends seamlessly into the bands set and will sit just as (dis)comfortably within the UK charts.
The set ends as Tommy descends into the rapturous crowd, he remained there for a full 20 minutes literally mobbed, obviously delighted at the crowds reception; Space have a couple of dates remaining on this tour then they are set to play a few UK festivals including Rebellion, Willowman and Forever Sun; might be a long night if he repeats the ‘meet and greet’ on these occasions.
01. Charlie M
02. Mister Psycho
03. She’s in Love With a Boy in a Body Bag
05. Attack of the Mutant 50ft Kebab
06. Avenging Angels
07. Crying on the Webcam
08. A Liddle Biddy Help From Elvis
09. Begin Again
10 .Fortune Teller
11. The Ballad of Tom Jones
12. Happy Clowns
13. Burn Down the School
14. Female of the Species
17. Me & You Vs The World
18. Dark Clouds/La Bamba
19. Drop Dead