Spector - Thekla, Bristol
A trip to Bristol's Thekla is always a trip to look forward to. Possibly one of the UK's finest small venues the marooned boat always offers a wonderful atmosphere where the audience and the artist are locked in tight without the need for any over-zealous security. Which is exactly why Spector's first night on their UK tour was a very intense affair.
Surrounded by a sea of over-excited teenagers the Thekla was a sell-out and hours before the headline act reached the stage, a raucous atmosphere of energy drink-charged adolescents danced around and sang Spector songs in between the support acts (the best being Manchester's Spring Kings, with their all-star singing drummer). Local legend Big Jeff was in attendance down the front as per usual (legend has it that he sees over 200 gigs a year and has even had a documentary about his gig addiction) as well as the teenage girls lining the front rows and hanging on to the barriers, refusing to be moved by the bigger funky- shirted boys, who would relentlessly push 'n' shove their way to the front throughout the night and declare to each band that it was "funky-shirt Tuesday". Sadly I never received the memo.
By the time Spector hit the stage the floor was already rocking and I was now having to stand sideways to catch a glimpse of the spectacle. Who knew that Spector had such a frantic fan base? As the band entered the stage the crowd started bouncing and barely ceased for the next hour or so. The first track was 'Lately It's You' which allowed singer Fred Macpherson the chance to use some vocoder action. The heavy synth closing track of their latest album 'Moth Boys' was an odd choice to open with. They did lose the audience part way through until the songs climatic outro brought them back with vengeance.
The band were stylised in mainly monochrome black and white attire and looked buoyant and seemed to lack any first day of the tour nerves. Macpherson's dead-pan vocals can divide opinion, but he sounded in fine voice and their were only a few first night on the road hic-cups, but they still sounded great. By the time they played 'Stay High' (their most accessible track from the album) the crowd could no longer handle just watching their heroes standing on their tip-toes and engaged in some improv-gymnastics flinging each other into the air or hoisting one another onto their shoulders. They must have taken the track name literally and did manage to stay rather high in the air throughout the track, to the dismay of the rest of the crowd. Macpherson seemed very taken back at how well his band were received by Bristol and claimed that this was the first time they had managed to sell- out a show here, before rewarding us with classic singles 'Celestine' and 'Friday Night'.
Old and the new were all lovingly acknowledged and even the tracks making live débuts, like the gloriously bitter 'West End'. Bassist Tom Shickle could not stop smiling stage left and Macpherson and Shickle seem to have a real bond on stage and at one point got close to making out to the delight of the audience. When not flirting with other band members the singer leans out over the crowd, shooting the odd winks at some lucky ladies and handing out high fives by the plenty. If there is one thing you need to know about Spector, it's that you are guaranteed to get your fair share of hand slapping if need be.
As the sweat began to pour and our throats became rasped from constant singing Spector had taken us through a set made up of all the finer moments of both their albums only sadly missing out on the more electric 'Kyoto Garden'. They left the stage to the Thekla crowd singing "never fade away" before returning for an encore consisting one of their earliest singles 'Grey Shirt & Tie' and the band's finest moment to date 'All The Sad Young Men'. You would have thought that this was Nirvana playing 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' from the reaction, but no, this was a cynical mid-paced electo-pop anthem performed by some beautifully dressed skinny indie-boys - so why limbs were flying around my head was utterly surprising.
As I scurried to the back of the venue in order to breathe, adolescent boys began crowd-surfing to the front before being dropped onto the stage to hug their idols until they were shuffled off stage by a roadie. The track is far more intense in the live arena and the closing drums and guitar build up to an intense climax. But seeing mosh-circles was something that I'd not have expected to witness. What happened to people just wanting to dance in a show of appreciation? The five guys on stage all stood up to thank us for a wonderful gig and they actually looked genuinely shocked about how well their new songs had gone down. Here's to the rest of the UK tour boys. Maybe next time they can sell out the 02 Academy?
Words: Fran Jolley