It’s been a cracking 12 months for The Go! Team, with word of mouth success propelling their debut album Thunder Lightning Strike to a Mercury nomination and now embarking on their biggest UK tour to date. It can only be a matter of time before they stop playing the more intimate venues like Sheffield’s Plug, so it’s no wonder that the place was absolutely crammed for tonight’s performance.
Sadly, your reviewer arrived too late to see Smoosh, a pair of Seattle pre-teen blonde sisters building up a very cool reputation for themselves (they’ve already supported Death Cab For Cutie and Pearl Jam and they’re only 13 and 11!), but I did make it in on time to see Australia’s The Grates set the energy levels for the evening with a superb support slot.
Fronted by the adorably hyper Patience Hodgson, they sounded like a frenetic mix of Yeah Yeah Yeahs and a more tuneful Be Your Own Pet. 19 20 20 was naggingly catchy, Pain had a Pixies-style adrenalin rush of a chorus and the excellent Sukkafish was a definite highlight of the set. Nothing could top the manic, blistering set closer of The Message though.
Drummer Alana Skyring and guitarist John Patterson both created a hell of a racket, but it was Patience who stole the show, grinning constantly and bouncing up and down more often than a baby kangaroo. It’s not often that a support act make a genuine impression, but The Grates certainly did. Watch out for them this year, as they deserve to be huge.
The problem with producing a hugely inventive album like Thunder Lightning Strike is the inevitable doubts about whether it could be recreated live. Those doubts were put to rest when the band appeared – Ian Parton has put together a six piece who beautifully recreate the energetic, feel-good atmosphere of the record. With various band members taking turns on the twin sets of drums, harmonica, melodica and keyboards, it was difficult to take your eyes off the stage.
In vocalist Ninja too, they’ve found a frontwoman who literally owns the stage. Rushing about like a child full of Sunny Delight and chocolate she commanded the audience to “shake your booty” and the whole of the tightly packed Plug obeyed. Whether it be breathlessly rapping through the dramatic The Power Is On, creating her own cheerleader routine for the infectious Huddle Formation or demanding lighters in the air for Everyone’s A VIP To Someone, the woman is a pure star.
For those who may have thought The Go! Team to be a one trick pony, there was plenty of new material to disprove that theory. Although The Ice Storm was a bit drawn-out and dull, new tracks The Wrath Of Mikey and especially Titanic Vandalism are more than the equal of anything on the band’s debut. In fact, after a couple of listens, they may be even better.
Yet understandably enough, it was the familiar sounds of Thunder Lightning Strike that had everyone moving tonight. Bottle Rocket was even more ecstatically exuberant live than it is on record, while Huddle Formation had the entire audience chanting “Go! Team!” like their lives depended on it. Top marks too to drummer Ky who performed a solo song while the rest of the band took a well earned breather.
By the time of the closing Ladyflash, which developed into a very impressive jam, it was impossible to find anyone in the Plug who wasn’t dancing around with a great big dirty grin plastered over their face. Only The Go! Team can do this, and that’s why they’re so damn wonderful.