Manchester, The Deaf Institute
Barnsley four piece Exit Calm recently made the trip to Manchester’s Deaf Institute where they put on quite a show. Louder Than War were in the audience.
Since the very first moment I heard Exit Calm, getting to see them live wasn’t a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’, and although I may’ve been a bit slow on picking up on the band I realised on the way to Manchester’s Deaf Institute that I couldn’t be catching them at a better time. Their latest single, ‘The Rapture’, is probably their greatest 5 mins yet. You’re listening to a group that’s honed its sound, they’ve worked on the blueprints in their debut album and with ‘The Rapture’ they’ve taken it to the next level. Like all the big British guitar bands that have come before they just keep on improving, while moving away from their early given ‘Verve’ tag they’ve carved out a sound and style that is their own, a sound that is quintessentially Exit Calm.
Arriving just in time to see the Yorkshire 4 piece take to the stage in the old Victorian cinema you felt here was a group that knew where they’re going. But its all very calm and controlled as a cool looking Nicky Smith appears with his over grown Grizzly Adams beard. Like a reluctant star he paces the stage like he’s already in the zone. Opening up with the superb ‘We’re on our Own’, a glorious mix of Exit Calm’s many elements coming together to create their almost spiritual soundscape, it just fills the room up. Rob Marshall’s haunting / beautiful guitar work is supported by the strong / fluid rhythm section of Scott Pembarton’s drums and the rumble of Simon Lindley’s bobbing / weaving bass as it matches and complements the raw beauty of Smith’s vocals. It’s something quite meaningful as much as thrilling to finally hear songs like ‘We’re on our Own’ and ‘You’ve got it all Wrong’ live and direct.
The blissed-out swirl of ‘Albion’ follows as a few of the crowd up front start to hold their arms in the air like they’re at some mid-60’s Ally-Pally happening. Looking quite liberated from the strains of everyday life and freed up of any hangups they had before they walked in, it really felt like the natural reaction to the awe inspiring buzz which comes from the bands music.
Scanning about as they go into ‘Holy War’ many of the crowd actually seem like rabbits caught in the headlights of on-coming traffic as Marshall’s inspired guitar lines ring out, spell binding and a spell that the audience are very much willing to be under – it’s a 2 way connection.
One of the biggest reactions comes as they fire up to play everyone’s new Exit Calm fave ‘The Rapture’. A tune which follows in the groups tripped out style but also adds something of a more open feel to what they do, not so much ‘commercial’, but one that will in no doubt appeal to the long line of fans of classic British-guitar-groups. A tune which has already started to turn even more on to the band, new and old fans of life changing acts like Oasis, Verve and Primal Scream are now waking up and realising the next movement could be right under their noses, just waiting for them to join in.
Being picky, maybe Nicky’s vocals were a bit lost in the sound, not as clear as they could have been but that’s merely a technical hitch. Also, the show was a bit short & would have been better if they’d included a couple more tunes as they definitely have them. But cleverly they gave just enough to give the audience what they needed and to leave them wanting that bit more.
All the songs were all big numbers and at an hour and 20 minutes the set galloped by as they finished with the colossal ‘Hearts and Minds’. Euphoric, dramatic, big and beautiful, its just another outstanding tune from a band now surely coming into their own. Songs that are as much about creating a ‘moment’ as they are about making sound. Though it’s actually more than that, its the group themselves, they so look the part with a front man who has that ‘thing’ to inspire others. If that all sounds a bit too much or over the top then that’s fair do’s but time will tell, and so will their second album.
It might be the finest show I’ll see all year.
All words by Carl Stanley, images Dominic Hopkins. More of Carl’s writing on Louder Than War can be found here.