Hot Hot Heat (Supported By Franz Ferdinand) - Astoria, Charing Cross Road, London
It’s very easy to make a catchy punk record nowadays, but can you also exist as a catchy punk live band? Hot Hot Heat answer this question ferociously, and yet they also throw in fabulous pop hook sensibilities into their frenetic live mix. The Astoria on Charing Cross Road is the perfect place to house their sweaty athleticism, and it’s fitting in that the Canadian rockers are supported by Scotland’s answer to the ‘next big thing’ Franz Ferdinand.
Franz Ferdinand probably possess the musicianship to achieve great things, but sadly their performance is lacklustre despite the well-wishers of the Astoria crowd. All of their so-called favourites are included in the thirty minute set, including Darts Of Pleasure and Cheating On You with lyrical banality intact, but where’s the stage presence? Minimalist chatter between songs isn’t enough nowadays to look cool; you need to hold the audience in the palm of your hand. Franz Ferdinand are happy to keep a distance. However, the NME no doubt will love these fashionable art-rockers, so you can bet the radio will be thrusting their songs down your throat by next year.
When Hot Hot Heat take to the stage to the pounding drum beat of Talk To Me, Dance With Me you can already guarantee how good the night will turn out, and everything does go according to plan. Excitable lead singer Steve Bays struts his stuff on stage whilst occasionally playing his electronic keyboard, and when he tells the crowd that he’s very pleased to be at the Astoria you actually sense he means it. Following the band’s new single with No, Not Now, their previous single, the crowd are already converted by the Canadian rockers, who perform their tight set in very tight jeans.
The band have only released one album under their current lineup, the short and snappy Make Up The Breakdown which barely stretched thirty minutes, so there’s no surprise that the band include many cuts from their maxi-EP Knock Knock Knock, including the best song they’ve ever released More For Show. It’s a punk set overdosed with sporadic light shows and musical showmanship, and yet somehow achieved without a trace of arrogance. The band are blessed with charm and grace, so much so that guitarist Dante Decaro had his favourite jumper returned to him during the performance by a fan who stole it at the Leeds Festival. Maybe there were no bids on Ebay.
The band go off, and come back on for the obligatory encore which includes their biggest breakthrough hit Bandages, and everyone goes home happy for another fun night at the Astoria. If their next album is as good as their debut, then Hot Hot Heat have the potential to steal The Strokes throne from under their noses, even if they’d rather sound like XTC instead.