It Bites: Manchester Academy – live review

IT BITES
Manchester Academy 2
21st March 2013

2012 had been a good year for It Bites. A well acclaimed album in Map Of The Past and a couple of tours and now a support slot on the short FM jaunt around the UK keeps them in the public eye. I’d last seen the band quite early on in their ‘reunion’ period about 6 or 7 years ago when suddenly they appeared from nowhere after being a band of promise back in the 1980’s. The ‘new’ It Bites carried on pretty much where they left off and the new material was often claimed as being ‘more It Bites than It Bites’.

It Bites were back on the road on the final 4 dates on the 2nd half of a short tour of keyboard based rock bands, finding themselves sandwiched between six piece new guard Vega and veteran headliners the AOR themed FM – who, like It Bites, released the first of their albums in 1986, making a comeback on 2007 after a 12 year break. A similar pedigree to It Bites and also undergoing a small scale resurgence judging by the decent turn out in Manchester’s second sized Academy.

The core of original It Bites members, John Beck and Bob Dalton together with ‘new boy’ John Mitchell were supplemented on bass duties by Nathan King (brother of Level 42’s uber – bassist Mark King, which by association gives him some pedigree) with regular bass player Lee Pomeroy being unavailable for this little jaunt.

With a limited time slot and playing as guests to an audience that’s not there exclusively for you is quite a daunting task. The set list had to reflect what It Bites do well without any slump in pace or chance for the ante to drop. Taking to the stage with a minimum of fuss or fanfare – in fact, absolutely no fuss or fanfare, a quick hello and off into one of their regular set openers Kiss Like Judas. It was a set bookended by a couple of tunes from their eighties heyday, finishing off with their major hit Calling All The Heroes (sometimes considered as a bit of a requirement to play) but as John Mitchell said – “if you’ve heard of It Bites you’ll probably know this song”.

They had the confidence to include a couple of tracks from their new/latest album in The Big Machine and current single Cartoon Graveyard (for which the video can be seen on their website) – both songs not out of place in an It Bites set and ones which fitted well with the rest of the uptempo material. Joking that they often get lumped with the progressive rock tag although it’s much more than prog with Mitchell’s chunky guitar riffs – maybe prog-pop. However, the eight minute Wind That Shakes The Barley, with it’s uplifting guitar solo at the end of the song, went some way to satisfying those who see their keyboard influenced sound as ‘progressive’. Without getting bogged down with labels and genres it’s the songwriting and ear for a melody which makes It Bites stand out and hope that they continue their journey for a few more years yet.

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