Tom Hingley and The Lovers – Liverpool – live review

Tom Hingley and The Lovers play The Beast Inside
O2 Academy 2, Liverpool
8 September 2012

Live review 

Having parted ways with his old band the Inspiral Carpets at the end of 2011 Tom Hingley is now out on the road with his band The Lovers giving the Inspirals’ second album The Beast Inside a live airing. 

Former Inspiral Carpets‘ frontman Tom Hingley has had a bit of a rough ride recently.

He parted ways with the band last year, under circumstances which remain unclear, and was replaced by Stephen Holt, a founding member of the band who sang with them prior to Hingley joining and them hitting the big time.

It’s a move which seems to have divided fans of the group, with many believing Tom to be the rightful heir to the Inspiral throne. After all, the band secured all their biggest hits with Tom on vocals, selling a million records worldwide and writing hit singles which are already on the way to becoming standards (‘This Is How It Feels’ is a case in point – a song which has been adopted as an unlikely football / cricket anthem).

In all fairness, the Inspirals still deliver the goods live and the Holt-era recorded output is pretty strong, but I can’t help feeling there’s something missing without Tom’s booming, operatic vocals and attention-grabbing stage persona to complement the heady, sugar-sweet psyche pop garage special brew of the Carpets.

Refusing to be defeated – as well as playing a seemingly endless series of solo acoustic gigs – he has decided to go out on the road with his backing band, The Lovers, and play the second Inspirals album in full.

This is an album which at least two members of the Carpets have confessed to hating but is also the one which many fans think is the band’s finest hour.

Many of its tracks haven’t been played live for almost twenty years, giving it something of a “lost classic” reputation, although it went top five when released back in 1991. The Beast Inside…anyone?

Certainly the darkest, and arguably the most psychedelic, of all the Carpets’ albums; ‘The Beast Inside’ was just MADE for the intimate, claustrophobic confines of the O2 Academy 2.

Throughout the set, ex-Fall member Steve Hanley’s bass playing suckerpunches you in the stomach with a rhino-like precision; the likes of ‘Grip’ and ‘Born Yesterday’ hitting particularly hard.

A relatively small, yet defiantly mad-fer-it crowd lap up every second, with many members of the audience singing along to every word and partying like it’s 1999, or 1991, if yer wanna be pedantic.

Tom is as captivating a frontman as ever; microphone swinging and swaying his way through the strobe lighted mist of the stage like a Beat Generation pied piper leading a merry dance through the candy coloured streets of yore.

Rather than simply replicating the album note by note, The Lovers make it their own; ‘Mermaid’ is given a tough, raw around the edges garage rock sheen which makes you see the song in a completely different light.

The deceptively upbeat single ‘Please Be Cruel’, with it’s dark lyrics concerning a sado-masochistic relationship sounding kookier and looser than ever before; killer couplets such as “I’ve seen the way he ties you down / Blind man’s bluff in a bridal gown”, and, of course, “He says you’re mutton dressed as lamb / Well he’s a vegetarian” leaping out at you like a salmon.

Kelly Wood’s keyboard playing is tremendous all the way through, screaming out more emotions, themes, thoughts and feelings than you can shake a stick at. It shines particularly brightly on the closing track, ‘Dreams Are All We Have’, a Clint Boon solo organ piece which really stuns tonight, taking on an added poignancy and ambience thanks to the compression of the room.

The chilling title track, ‘Beast Inside’ also benefits from her starkly individualistic soundscapes. A tortured mediaeval chamber ballad dealing with themes of domestic violence and sexual repression, the tolling bell of the keyboard ensures that the ambiguous chorus refrain of “Guess no man is a man if he doesn’t have the beast inside” reaches suitably high levels of ghastliness.

Being a fan of this album, every second of this gig was immense, although the highlight was surely ‘Further Away’; an absolutely storming psyche-rock number which always sounded like The Doors at their most fearsome, but never more so than tonight.

An eerie tape recording provides a countdown to the meltdown which is to follow. The tense rhythms of the Hanley brothers help the song build up to a truly astonishing psychedelic crescendo which leaves the crowd open mouthed. The interplay between the musicians is jaw droppingly intense, Hingley a mad conductor to the deranged rave-punk orchestra performing in front of him.

A fervent display of strobe lighting provides a perfect accompaniment to the wild hallucinogenic musical stew boiling up on the stage, giddily flashing along to the mad beats, unhinged riffs and dangerous rhythms of the band. Truly incredible.

For the encore, we get ‘Tainted Love’ and the euphoric inspirals anthem ‘Dragging Me Down’ which almost brings the house down. Brilliant end to a brilliant gig.

Post-gig, Tom happily chats to fans and signs copies of his book, Carpet Burns, an account of his time in the Inspirals.

I would urge all Inspirals fans to attend the remaining gigs of this tour, as there is no telling when these songs will be played again.

I would also urge anyone unfamiliar with the album to attend, as I am certain this show will convince you of it’s crafty, black-hearted genius.

One final thought – are there any other Carpets’ fans who think Babybird‘s ‘You’re Gorgeous’ sounds remarkably similar to ‘Sleep Well Tonight?’  The killer rendition of the latter anthem kinda hammered this home to me. Just an opinion, probably a coincidence, but still; listen to the two back to back and you might just see what I’m getting at.

You can catch Tom Hingley and The Lovers play The Beast Inside at the Ruby Lounge in Manchester next Friday (21 September 2012). Tickets available here.

All words by Sean Diamond. You can read more from Sean on LTW here.

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