LostAlone - Holmfirth Picturedrome
Don’t feel too sorry for The Darkness. Their over-cooked intro tape may poke fun at their long-gone hugeness (“1.3 million copies sold in the UK! Quadruple platinum!”) but this is their second major UK jaunt of 2013. The Picturedrome is some step down from the heady days of headlining Reading Festival, but 600 devotees fill the place with ease, a reassuring mix of teens and old stagers - as they’ve been doing every night on this proper, old school-lengthy tour. Justin Hawkins remains a master of self-mocking between-song banter. As he sits 11 year old Zac on the drum riser (“I’m worried about you down there young man, right in front of the speaker. Get yourself the fuck up here!”), he summarises the rise and fall and (semi) rise of his band with a series of pithy asides. “Can I make you a promise? Every time you come and see The Darkness, it’ll be different,” he says. “Even if the songs are exactly the same…” A spot of ill-advised jumping from the balcony concludes a set built around a full play-through of Permission to Land, that mega-selling 2003 debut. They play like their lives depend on it. Hey, good on them for buckling up and winning back a goodly portion of an ever-fickle market. No-one, probably not even the band themselves, can remember any more just where the irony begins and ends, so cast your doubts aside and take them deadly seriously. Sure, if The Darkness had a tribute band they’d probably just call themselves The Darkness and be done with it. But this lot sure look and sound like the real deal.
Another act managing the challenging duality of homage and invention are LostAlone. You can see why they were perfect for this tour, fusing as they do a classic rock heritage with an indie methodology. With their third album due early in the new year, the band debut four new songs in a frustratingly short set. Frontman Steven Battelle matches the headliners for crowd management. By the time they start, the house is nearly full and Holmfirth, bolstered by a few hardcore at the front, responds warmly. Still, every decent audience has its gobby goons and as one soft lad offers his thoughts, Battelle is happy to play along. “Wanker am I?” he says. “Thing is, mate, you’re down there gobbing off like a fucking idiot and I’m up here playing in a band. So, erm, who’s the wanker now, eh?” Quite.
As ever, LostAlone let the music do the talking. Battelle, winning over the locals with a Sid’s Café tee, leads from the front. For a trio, they deliver a full and muscular sound. Three part harmonies help transfer the scale of their recorded output. ‘Do You Get What You Pray For?’ and the closing ‘Love Will Eat You Alive’, their signature tune of sorts, help lift crowd involvement but it’s the new material that builds anticipation for album number three. Current single/free download ‘The Bells! The Bells!!’ is tremendous, fusing trademark sinewy guitar lines and an epic, angular chorus. ‘Crusaders’ and ‘Hostages’ could be even better, Battelle’s fingers a blur, his solid rhythm section (Mark Gibson on properly industrious drums and Alan Williamson on bass) keeping hold of him as he ventures stage-front for bouts of trademark buzz-saw soloing. They’ve been doing this for the best part of a decade now and you can see how they’ve become almost telepathically tight. Crucially, they play with fire and, like all the best live bands, with an almost innocent joy. With their best recorded work to date sat safely in their back pocket, you hope and pray 2014 belongs to them.