Alberta Cross - The Cockpit 3, Leeds

Gigs should be about having a good time, immersing yourself in the music, letting yourself go, watching the expressions and interaction between the members of the band and the audience... You get the idea. It should most definitely not be about standing cheek-to-jowl in a tightly packed room under a railway arch completely unsuited to the night’s entertainment.

The Cockpit 3 is a great little venue when 30-40 people are in attendance but when it is full to the legal capacity of 100 it is almost unbearable. The stage is about six inches high meaning about 90% of the audience can see nothing but the heads of the people in front of them - and moving about for any kind of view is an impossibility. I am 6ft tall and despite being no more than 12ft from the stage all I could see of the band was the occasional glimpse of some hats. Not great.

It is only fair to say that none of this is the fault of Alberta Cross who put on a stunning performance despite the surroundings. Their debut album Broken Side Of Time is without doubt my favourite album of the year and, as on the CD, tonight’s set opens with a spectacular ‘Song3Three Blues’ which beautifully showcases the powerful yet strangely fragile voice of frontman Petter Ericson Stakee. There have been some who have said that the new songs are too rocky and that the country-tinged debut E.P. The Thief & The Heartbreaker is the superior record. Tonight’s hour-long set provides ample evidence that they can do both full-on rock and acoustic mellowness with equal aplomb. ‘Old Man Chicago’ is a prime example of the latter and grabs at the heartstrings like any good blues song should. As on the album the highlight of the night is a blistering run through of the ‘Broken Side of Time’, a driving guitar led powerhouse that deserves to be on any list of Songs of 2009.

The languid, and almost shogazey, epic ‘Rise from the Shadows’ relaxes the crowd before the onslaught of the heavy organ led ‘ATX ‘which is even better live than on record - a pretty impressive feat. The dulcet tones of the harmonica are prevalent in first encore, the lovely ‘Lucy Rider’ and this leads us to the slow burning finale of ‘City Walls’, a perfect way to end the night.

It is the great credit of Alberta Cross that the strength and power of this performance meant that very few of the audience took the easy option of decamping to the downstairs bar. Bigger venues, bigger crowds and, crucially, higher stages surely await in 2010. I will be there, as will most of those in attendance tonight. Come join us.

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