The House of Love: Liverpool – live review

The House of Love
Liverpool, Eric’s
Sunday, 7th April 2013

The House of Love’s thrilling comeback continues with excellent, career-spanning set at Liverpool live show.

I’m sure that most of you reading this article know the story of House Of Love. It’s an all too familiar rock ‘n’ roll tale of drink ‘n’ drugs fueled breakdowns, clashing egos and petty feuding; all contributing towards the slow demise and eventual downfall of a potentially world conquering, arena filling band.

Despite these obstacles, HOL have always held a strong cult following, particularly in the UK, and have returned with three original band members and a new album to promote. I visited the newly re-opened Eric’s a couple of months earlier to see the mighty upsetter Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry for the second time, and was impressed by its warm, intimate, yet highly spacious surroundings. Venues like this tend to host the most memorable gigs, and having never seen HOL live before I had reason to be very, very excited indeed…….

Launching straight into “A Baby Got Back On It’s Feet”, the opening track from their new album, She Paints Words In Red, the band are crackling with a steely professionalism and an aura of self confidence which you wouldn’t generally expect from a group with as troubled a history as theirs.

It’s a great relief though; they both look and sound like they are loving (and living) life to the full, albeit in rather more sober circumstances than the days of old. Guy Chadwick and Terry Bickers are one of the most undervalued teams in the history of British pop; Guy’s extraordinarily versatile songwriting leaps from one emotion to the next seemingly effortlessly, whilst Bickers’ breathtaking guitar lines scream these thoughts and feelings out with machine gun precision.

The set is mainly comprised of new material and songs taken from the eponymously titled first and second albums (the “Creation” and “Fontana” albums to the fans – these were the labels they were released on!), a refreshing mixture of the old and new, highlighting their creative rejuvenation impeccably.

She Paints Words In Red is a cracking comeback; more relaxed than past works but no less captivating, featuring more than enough of their trademark killer choruses and tempo changes to keep the old fans happy, whilst also offering plenty for the uninitiated to savour. The baroque folk-pop of the album’s title track is a highlight, as are the oddball musings of “Hemingway” and the frantic blues of “Money Man”, which gives Bickers ample opportunity to show off his Guitar God credentials.

Highlights from the old guard include the sly humour of “I Don’t Know Why I Love You”, the touching ballad “Love In A Car”, the gorgeous top 20 single “Beatles And The Stones”, and the taut, claustrophobic “Fontana” album closer “Se Dest”. For an encore we get crowd pleasers “Shine On” and “Destroy The Heart”, both of which sound as though they could have been written yesterday; fist punching, wildly catchy anthems with dark, enigmatic lyrics that seem to resonate perfectly with these troubled times.

Yeah, there were a few disappointments! No “Christine”, the 1989 single which the band have been opening with on other legs of the tour (and which made number eight in the American pop charts); no “Hannah”, the hypnotic, swirling psych pop opener to the second album; and no “Blind”, an achingly beautiful, genuinely devastating ballad taken from the same album which I think may well be my personal fave HOL track.

Oh, and it did seem a little on the short side. All the same; a great gig, with a great crowd and a great band. At one point a particularly enthusiastic (and probably inebriated) audience member shouts, at the top of his voice “Terry Bickers shits all over Johnny Marr!”, to cheers from quite a few present. As a fan of both The Smiths and HOL, I’m reluctant to take sides, but it’s usually a sign of a great band when they inspire these levels of devotion. I, for one, hope Guy and co. continue to enchant our ear drums for many moons to come. Long live The House Of Love!

Words by Sean Diamond. More writing by Sean on Louder Than War can be found here.

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