Live Music + Gig Reviews

Hard-Fi @ Astoria, London

9 December 2005

Whilst they have yet to reach out to people in the same way The Smiths did, it’s clear that Hard-Fi strike a cord with many.

They easily convey the urban experience without adopting the Guy Ritchie style mockneyness that mars most other London bands. They’ve made a tremendous impression in 2005, including a nomination for the hotly contended Mercury Music Prize. This residency at the Astoria, prior to an appearance at XFM’s Winter Wonderland, was the hottest ticket in town.

A predictably sold out crowd proved they have captured music lovers’ imagination by just getting out there and doing it. Their bargain basement debut album Stars Of CCTV was made for less than it probably costs to buy it. The album has now become so ubiquitous that every shopping centre adorned with the famous CCTV logo now feels like they’ve jumped on the bandwagon.

As the lights dimmed the Astoria began an expectant hush, broken by a sweeping Ennio Morricone score. Suddenly the band’s entrance became masked by an eruption of blinding yellow light. Before we knew it we were launched headlong into Middle Eastern Holiday and a thunderous set with hardly a pause for breath.

All of the debut album’s tracks were preformed with the singles being the obvious highlights. As if that wasn’t enough a cover of Seven Nation Army provided a massive slab of noise for the moshers to get their teeth into. It also proved a brave move since it sounded like something more suitable for a death metal gig. Was this a bit of fun or a none-too-subtle hint at a new direction? Thankfully not the latter – the band have said that they’ve got shedloads of new songs ready and are beginning to road test them on tour before a new album planned next year. As proof the only new song of the night certainly lived up to the crowd’s expectations.

Let’s hope their meteoric rise to fame doesn’t change them. Since the songs relate to the ordinary experience of Blair’s disenchanted masses, the question begs: will they be able to do the simple things like riding on a bus or queuing at a cashpoint anymore?

Well, from the evidence on show it looks like their ASBO orientated rock hit will reach newer heights. Especially since they got the crowd dancing and yelling even from the traditionally stuffy back of the auditorium.

The only slight criticism is that the set felt a lot shorter than it did, either due to a lack of material or a need to tidy the place up for the G-A-Y crowd at 11pm. But on reflection I’d rather have a shorter, more concise performance than a rambling collection anyway. All the songs that people wanted to hear were performed, as well as a couple of treats. Add this to front man Richard Archer displaying just the right touch of arrogant swagger needed as a band’s front man and we have a mix that’s surely hard to beat. Sorry, I was unable to avoid that crap pun. But in short, the Staines massive pulled off a great homecoming gig.

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More on Hard-Fi
Hard-Fi – Once Upon A Time In The West
Hard-Fi @ Astoria, London
Interview: Hard-Fi
Hard-Fi @ Neighbourhood, London
Hard-Fi – Stars Of CCTV