The Subways - KOKO, London
It’s 10.15pm and The Subways have resorted to blackmail. Not content with the writhing, sweaty mass that has been KOKO’s floor all set, Billy Lunn proclaims that they’ll stop ‘Turnaround’ midway through, not restarting until Charlotte Cooper sees a big enough circle pit and, as Billy jokes, she likes them big.
Thirty seconds. That’s all it takes for a pit the width of KOKO to form and once Charlotte restarts her axe wielding, carnage predictably ensues - even if Billy mocks the crowd afterwards by joking that it wasn’t really a circle pit in the conventional sense. Turns out you really don’t need money to have a good time; blackmail is a more than adequate substitute.
Let’s rewind though and with their excellent new album Money And Celebrity still relatively fresh on the shelves, tonight’s KOKO gig marked the end of the UK leg of their European tour promoting the album. Not that The Subways were in any mood to rest on their laurels, bursting out of the blocks with a breathless, high-octane one-two of ‘Oh Yeah’ and ‘Young For Eternity’. It’s a tempo that doesn’t relent as they proceed to rattle through 17 tracks in little over an hour, with the trio’s energy more than matching the ferocity of their performance. Standing still is a little-known concept for Billy and Charlotte and while it might be a nightmare for the photographers – although Billy does pull off his trademark drumkit jump several times throughout the set – it all ends up to a thrilling live performance that is impossible not to get swept up in.
It helps that most Subways tracks are just born for the live stage with sing-alongs practically a given for the likes of ‘Oh Yeah’ and ‘I Want To Hear What You Have Got To Say’; indeed, Billy is so confident in the crowd that he frequently leaves them to it and they duly oblige. It’s not just the oldies that rattle the foundations though, both singles off the new album are already stone-cold live favourites already with ‘It’s A Party’, in particular, rounding off the night with a mass sing-along and screaming section orchestrated by Billy. It’s far from subtle but when all the elements are pulled together – tight performance, big choruses, endless interaction – it’s hard to think of a band who are more fun to watch live than The Subways.
If there are to be any qualms with the night as a whole, it’s entirely down to personal preference. The lack of ‘I Won’t Let You Down’ and ‘Girls & Boys’ is perhaps understandable given the flow of the set – for example, the heaviest slab from Money And Celebrity, ‘Rumour’, isn’t aired either – but no less disappointing. For some as well, an hour is perhaps too short of a set for a band on their third album, especially when just five new tracks are showcased. But with a formidable, and well-balanced, encore of ‘Kalifornia’, ‘At 1AM’ and ‘It’s A Party’ ending proceedings, it’s hard to imagine any fan could have walked away disappointed and feeling that they hadn’t got their money’s worth.
It’s 10.40pm and Billy’s about to crowd dive from the first floor of KOKO into the centre where a mass of adulating fans await to welcome him, bruised heads be damned. 30 seconds later and he’s nailed it. If you hadn’t guessed by now, blackmail or not, the crowd are The Subways’ to command. Turns out you definitely don’t need money to have a good time, all you need is adoration.
YOUNG FOR ETERNITY
WE DON'T NEED MONEY TO HAVE A GOOD TIME
I WANNA DANCE WITH YOU
I WANT TO HEAR WHAT YOU HAVE GOT TO SAY
ROCK & ROLL QUEEN
KISS KISS BANG BANG
IT'S A PARTY