Hope of the States have just returned from a mammoth US tour, which perhaps suggests why their reputation in the UK has only marginally grown since the release of the epic first album, The Lost Riots.
Tonight’s opener, The Black Amnesiacs is less of a curtain-raiser than a curtain-tearer-downer-and-stomper-on as an assault of feedback, guitars chiming against each other and frenzied vibrato from violinist, Mike Siddell, explode from the speakers.
Then followed the old world jingle-jangle of George Washington: one of the evening’s highlights. Again though, the experience is slightly marred by the venue. Such a shame; such big harmonies and intelligent, poetic lyrics deserve to be heard properly.
Sam Herlihy has clearly grown in confidence as a frontman: relaxed and amiable between songs, animated during them. He displayed diverse musical abilty at the keyboards, on the guitar and at the microphone. I really couldn’t fault him, or the rest of the band, for the energy they put in to the set. Mixing up new songs with stalwarts from The Lost Riots, manic rock numbers like The Red The White The Black The Blue with quieter Radiohead-esque melancholia such as Black Dollar Bill.
It was a varied and professionally executed set, with the closing songs proving to be the pinnacle: Nehemiah followed by Enemies/Friends would have been the perfect end. The band returned for a rather pointless encore after the riotous finale; a tribute to John Peel drew the biggest cheer of their return, rightly so.
Leaving the venue, I was left with a sense of what might have been. We got glimpses of a British band making big, beautiful sounds ripe with harmony and lyrical dexterity, yet it could have been so much better, but for the venue. Herlihy remarked that HOTS’ last Manchester gig was played in a room about the size of the Academy’s stage.
Perhaps by the time they return, their popularity will have grown sufficiently to allow them to step further up the venue ladder, to the infinitely better Manchester Apollo. Let’s hope so!