Mona - The Borderline, London
might have disappeared from the radar for a couple of years but they haven’t changed at all in that time. Here they are in 2013 still looking like the cast of The Outsiders, including white t-shirted frontman Nick Brown, and with slicked back hair like the last time they visited these shores two years ago. At one point I even think Brown is going to come out into the crowd during ‘Shoot The Moon’ again, but he manages to resist, with lack of inebriation cited as a factor in his reluctance.
In 2011 Mona were riding high, they were on the BBC Sound of 2011 longlist, playing Reading & Leeds Festivals, and releasing their debut album. A couple of hit singles (you might remember ‘Teenager’) and then nothing. No new music, no tours, no interviews. Tonight there’s a feeling that they’re here to make up for that and remind the UK who they are. There’s an apology from Brown over the length of time they’ve been away, and there’s a real determination to their performance in front of a very supportive crowd. Despite the sell out though, the small venue shows there’s some work to be done to raise their profile again.
Opening with your two best known songs, ‘Listen To Your Love’ and ‘Teenager’, is a pretty ballsy thing to do as you’re not really left with anywhere to go, even more so when your new album has got a very low key release in the UK. In fact my copy from Amazon took two weeks and was labelled an import; now you can only buy it on MP3. Kicking things off in that fashion actually had the desired response from the crowd, they got into it and didn’t stop for the rest of the show. The band got the balance between new and old tracks just about right, even throwing in a bit of filler in the shape of a cover of The Cranberries ‘Zombie’.
The new tunes are a subtle evolution of their sound: they’re still a blue collar rock ‘n’ roll band but there’s a little more depth to them now. ‘Wasted’ and ‘Darlin’ are thrown in early on, don’t sound out of place, and get an enthusiastic reaction from the assembled throng. And there’s a central section either side of the excellent ‘Shoot The Moon’, their most intense live song, that shows the best of new LP Torches & Pitchforks. Certainly ‘Goons (Baby I Need It All)’ has the sound of an arena rocker, with the chorus reverberating around the room all night whenever there’s a break in play. ‘Cross The Line’ is a balls out rocker, and ‘Torches & Pitchforks’ has a hint of early U2 about it. They all sound great live and get the arms flailing in the air.
Unabashedly old fashioned, there’s nothing flashy or clever going on, but they’re no less good for it. Mona played like a band who know they’ve got something to prove. They had the crowd with them tonight, the question is can they replicate that fervor throughout a full tour.