Samantha Lloyd / Graham Webb
(Photo Credits: Samantha Lloyd / Graham Webb)
It's a cool Sunday evening as we arrive at Rebellion Bar, Manchester to catch the performance from Courage My Love, a Canadian punk rock trio, with special guests Halflives, a rock quintet from Modena, Italy.
The venue is quiet as we enter with no more than maybe twenty five to thirty people standing at the back of the room, some are playing pool or sitting on the stairs by the sound booth while supporting act Tried Denied begin performing their set, kicking off with 'Sweetest Things' a lyrically beautiful song delivered well by Emma Konnanov (vocals/guitar). We're halfway through their set when she calls out to the audience to move #DownTheFront and, after some hesitation, they slowly shuffle closer to the stage as they begin playing 'Be Mine'. The track is catchy and there's the odd foot tapping but that is about all that escapes from the otherwise unresponsve audience as their set progresses and then comes to a conclusion after 'Prisoner'. We weren't blown away by their performance but experience will hopefully bolster their confidence and improve their stage presence.
Next up is We Signal Fire, a four-piece local alternate rock band whose intro doesn't really capture attention until Chloe Houston (lead vocals) starts belting out some very impressive vocals. Though she appears visually to be a little nervous, her vocals are soulful, strong and captivating. That is until Pete Clough (Vocals/lead guitar) starts singing! Other reviews state that their vocals work in harmony with each other but we have to seriously disagree. The contrast of Pete's bassy monotone vocals mixed with the power and vocal range of Chloe just doesn't work for us. Chloe's voice alone is strong enough to carry the songs, however, when coupled with the backing vocals of Martin Downton (drums/vocals), who does actually know how to harmonise, they sound pretty good. Add a sprinkle of charisma and maybe this band could make something magical happen. Maybe.
After a quick change over special guests Halflives take to the stage and instantly there's a change in the atmosphere. The previously unresponsive crowd has now grown to around seventy people and they are against the stage eagerly awaiting the start of the performance, and what a show they put on! Halflives launch their set with 'Lone Wolf'. The catchy electronic intro really gets the crowd excited and then the fast paced rock kicks in getting the crowd bouncing. The song slows down for the bridge then launches into a chorus which gets the crowd and the band all jumping (quite literally everyone is bouncing!).
Linda Battilani's lead vocals are clear and strong and she really knows how to work the crowd as they burst into their second song 'Mayday'. The fans are loving this perfomance and so are we! Linda and Oscar Scantamburlo (Bass) are up on monitors above the fans, really rocking the venue and there's one young woman at the front almost in tears as she reaches her hands up in the air almost in a euphoric state of ecstacy as the rhythm takes hold. It's really great to see such an energetic band with really emotive lyrics and melodic vocals who just bring the fans to life. Their acoustic cover of 'The Black Parade' (My Chemical Romance) goes down well with the adoring fans then Linda takes a moment to express her sadness of the Manchester bombing and pledges the proceeds of the merchandise sales to the Manchester One love emergency appeal. A round of applause ensues and Linda announces the next song 'Empty Room' and encourages the audience to "Sing along if you know the words, if you don't then just pretend you do!".
We progress through the set to 'Echo', a slower paced track, then into 'Half Alive' with a catchy fast-paced introduction that seems a bit heavier than the other tracks. The whole time the fans are bouncing, all singing along loving every minute of this awesome performance. They finish up their set with 'Burn' which starts slowly but really begins to build into a very powerful close to an amazing set and we have to admit we didn't want this one to end! Add these guys and gal to the list of ones to watch, they have so much potential and you don't want to miss them live. They are about to start their own headline tour for their album 'Empty Room'. If you like easy listening energetic rock then go buy a ticket and get #DownTheFront!
Wrapping up the evening are the headliners Courage My love, the Canadian trio made up of Mercedes Arn-Horn (vocals/guitar/keyboard), Phoenix Arn-Horn (Drums/vocals) and Brandon Lockwood (Bass/vocals). After the full on energy of Halflives the stage looks a little bit empty as they begin their set, and although the crowd respond really well to 'Animal Heart' there's a noticable change in the energy. A few people are sitting back down on the stairs by the sound booth as the band crash into their second song 'Walls'. There's lots of engagement with the audience in between songs, maybe more so than is actually needed but it's understandable that Mercedes wants the audience to feel engaged with the songs. For us though they seem to lack the presence of the previous band and, although they play out some great tracks during their set, we can't help but feel that the vocals seem a little flat. However, this doesn't deter the fans from cheering as 'Need Someone' starts. There are heads bobbing, fans singing along and this very small gathering seems to becoming more engaged with each song. 'Stereo' gets a great cheer and the euphoric vibe that was established from the previous band seems to be slowly gaining traction again.
Mercedes tearfully begins to talk about the Manchester bombing and really seems to struggle while expressing how devastated she feels as they too announce that they are donating the proceeds from the merchandise sales to the emergency appeal. The set continues and Fede Bernardi (drummer for Halflives) joins them on stage taking over from Phoenix Arn-Horn who takes to the front of the stage with her twin sister Mercedes, who then proceeds to jump into the crowd and rock with the fans #DownTheFront.
The fans are already calling for an encore when they annouce their last song 'The Year I Disappeared' and then proceed to play another 2 tracks, 'Dark Wood, Dark Water' and 'Tough Love' which result in Brandon Lockwood attemtping to crowd surf, which, in our opinion, didn't really work well due to the fact that there weren't enough people to warrant such a move. In all the headliners for us were a bit of a disappointment. The vocals were pitchy and thin and the music lacked depth, but the fans seemed to enjoy the show.
Courage My Love wrap up their UK tour this week in Peterborough on June 7th and Folkestone on June 8th before heading back to the States for the Vans Warped Tour.