Sheffield has never been particularly badly off for gig venues (it outshines its supposedly more glamorous neighbour Leeds on that score at least) and The Plug is the most recent addition. With a mightily impressive sound system, 1500 capacity and a prestigious future line-up of Ladytron, Martha Wainwright and local heroes Arctic Monkeys, it’s certainly shaping up to be The Leadmill’s first serious competitor in quite a while.
Scottish four-piece The Cinematics had the honour of being the first band to ever play on The Plug’s stage. Their lead singer looks the spitting image of Nick McCarthy from Franz Ferdinand and they have the requisite taut guitar riffs and enthusiastic energy that’s served their more famous countrymen so well.
They’ve also got a good ear for a tune – both Change and Be In The World stick in the memory and in Wake Up, they have a potential classic. The one worry is that they don’t seem to offer anything particularly different to the rest of the ‘skinny white boys with guitars’ market – if they can stamp their own personality on their forthcoming album, then The Cinematics should be big names in 2006.
Another band who are already making an impressive name for themselves are We Are Scientists. The trio from New York City specialise in big, bouncy guitar pop and receive an enthusiastic welcome from tonight’s crowd. The endearing, slightly camp, figure of lead singer Keith Miller sported an Editors t-shirt and jumped around like a man possessed during the infectious Nobody Move Nobody Get Hurt.
Visually, they buck the trend of other self-consciously cool New York acts – bassist Chris Cain even sports a very retro looking moustache – and the overall vibe of their set is one of fun. Some songs, such as Can’t Lose, are reminiscent of Hot Hot Heat, and current single The Great Escape provokes some frenzied dancing in the audience. “Thanks guys, you’ve been super-fun!” exclaimed Miller as he left the stage. So were you, chaps.
Super-fun is probably not a ready description for the dark, intense sound of Editors. Fantastic would be a better choice. The quartet from Birmingham have already produced one of the best albums of 2005 in the brooding shape of The Back Room, and their reputation as a sterling live act has grown and grown.
Much of this is down to the startling figure of lead singer Tom Smith, a man who commands most of the attention onstage thanks to his jerky movements and epileptic dancing. The resemblance to Ian Curtis has been noted by many people, but there’s also something of the young Michael Stipe in there. Most importantly though, Smith has a charisma and presence all of his own that make Editors a formidable proposition live, whether he be staggering round the stage, holding his guitar as a weapon or cradling his head as if it’s about to drop off.
The rest of the band are less showy but do their job perfectly. Drummer Ed Lay keeps things extremely tight, while bassist Russell Leetch takes the age old pose of bass players down the ages by standing solemnly onstage and staring out the audience. Guitarist Chris Urbanowicz (paying back Keith Miller rather sweetly by wearing a We Are Scientists t-shirt) meanwhile simply pulls off a string of superbly exciting riffs.
Musically, much has been made of Editors’ debt to Interpol, – it’s true that Smith does sound uncannily like Paul Banks and that tracks such as Fall wouldn’t sound out of place on Turn Out The Bright Lights. Yet Editors have a disco sensibility about them, for want of a better phrase – singles such as Munich, and especially the wonderful Bullets, are able to pull off the trick of being danceable while also sounding epic and broody. The overall sound is so thrilling it’s easy to miss the dark lyrics that make Editors stand out from the crowd (“people are fragile things you should by now, be careful what you put them through” runs a sample lyric from Munich).
By the time the encore of Someone Says and the magnificent Fingers In The Factories rolls round, the gig almost has the air of a greatest hits set – quite staggering for a band who have just released their first album. If The Plug keeps putting on nights of this quality, Sheffield will have another roaring live success on its hands.