The Ting Tings - Manchester Apollo
Imagine pitching it : “So there’s two of them, right ? Guy and a girl ?” Yep. “Let me guess - she drums ?” No – he drums. "Oh, okay. That could work ..." And sings, and plays keyboards. And a bit of guitar. But, er, mostly drums, yeah. “Right, so she’s the singer ?” Yeah … but she plays guitar too. And a bit of keyboards, bit of drums. Well … drum. “Okay ... okay ... Is she cute ?” Well, yeah, kinda. I mean, not in a Girls Aloud way, but, you know ... yeah. As a pair they're cool as you like. Afflecks Palace chic, if you will. You know ? "Yeah, I think I'm getting it now. Sure, sounds good. We're in. Definitely. Great. Good stuff. What else ? Oh yeah, and what kinda sound do they make ? What are they like ..?"
Those Ting Tings, eh ? What are they like ? Having spent the previous year turning my nose up at the local hype, the Salford duo coloured my 2008 with just enough primary wow and flutter to make the rain and the murk disappear from sight. In ‘That’s Not my Name’ and ‘Shut Up and Let me Go’, they blu-takked two bone fide pop gems to the shrivelled charts and the rotting airwaves. For once, a twosome who could well have been a Novelty Act turned out to be worth championing. By the time ‘We Started Nothing’ arrived, this much was clear; The Ting Tings not only had it, their album's uncompromising title undersold itself by some degree. It's a debut that has the smarts to get in and get out in not much more than a dizzying half hour. Quite why I love them quite as much as I do, I sometimes struggle to fathom. But love them I do. Deeply. Certainly everyone likes The Ting Tings, do they not ? But for me, beneath their indie boho groove, their canny rendering of dance beats with a lo-fi ethic, I find something to cherish.
With all of that in mind, tonight’s short (smart, generous showmanship gets an hour out of it), but hardly slight, set represents the beginning of an end. They’ve toured the arse off these ten songs and, as celebratory as we make their biggest home town show to date, it’s time for something new. Which is no real criticism; the familiar alone can't taint a stunning live show. Between the two of them, Jules sat stage left, Katie hopping and stamping all over, they fill a demanding stage with ease. It’s still a surprise to see just how well they marry performance with attitude. Dismount your high horse about the tapes and the programming and you're faced with the fact that The Ting Tings are a fantastically drilled, supremely exciting live band. They simply never miss a beat. Older heads - not me, obviously - might be tempted to call them 'reliable'. Vocals are spot on all night. They feed off a rapturous Apollo. Everybody, young and not-so-young, grins like cats from just south of here.
‘We Walk’ is the stunning start as ever, Jules impassive behind shades, stood spotlit at the keys, a good, long hard stare at the crowd and we're off. 'Great DJ' fires the moshpit. (Still love the "Don't you feel you're growing up undone ?" line.) 'Traffic Light', their barbed take on, of all things, country, still thrills live - they're Emmylou and Gram via the M60. 'Shut Up and Let Me Go', 'We Started Nothing', an incendiary 'That's Not my Name', all rock the bouncing house. Even album lowspot 'Impicilla Carpisung' takes on new life with a driving coda. They leave to an ovation bursting with love. But, like I say, now for chapter two. If, as I suspect, they take advantage of record company indulgence (500,000 album sales in the UK - not to be sniffed at now that we've all got about 20p a day to live on) and a swelling fanbase, and send the creative boat out into deeper, darker waters, their return should be something to cherish.