Neighbourhood isn’t your most conventional rock ‘n’ roll haunt – tucked away in the deepest reaches of Ladbroke Grove in West London, just off the Portobello Road, it’s a brand new nightclub situated in the midst of a council estate and under a flyover.
But tonight it seemed a strangely appropriate venue for this one off gig from Hard-Fi, which had been hastily arranged to make up for their cancelled Glastonbury slot.
It’s a distinctly urban venue in every respect, and Hard-Fi are a very urban band. Hailing from the concrete jungle that is Staines, they’ve made a name for themselves this year as rock’s answer to The Streets.
Their tales of being broke, skipping fares, getting your girlfriend pregnant and going out are all messages that are familiar to people living in cities in the 21st Century. What’s more, with their musical style drawing comparisons to The Clash and The Specials, they’ve managed to appeal to almost all sections of the record buying public.
This is perhaps the reason for their runaway success – their debut album, Stars Of CCTV, had just crashed the top 10 a couple of days ago, and their last single Hard To Beat has been all over the radio like a rash in the last few weeks. So this performance had something of a celebratory feel to it, a thanks to the fans for a successful year so far before they jetted off to America for their maiden stateside jaunt.
The absence of a support act meant that by the time Hard-Fi arrived on stage at 10.20pm, the audience were a lot rowdier than they might have been due to the extra time at the bar. The atmosphere was therefore rather electric, ensuring a typically boisterous set.
Most of the debut album was showcased during their allocated hour – front man Richard Archer was in truly energetic form, bounding around on stage, exchanging high fives with the front row and giving it his all. When he was singing the words, you really empathised with him.
Tied Up Too Tight saw the most enthusiastic crowd participation of the evening, with its euphoric chorus being sung by everyone in the venue, whilst Cash Machine sounded as majestic as it does on record. In between we were treated to an incendiary cover of Seven Nation Army, which proved to be a big hit with the audience – here Archer howled frantically like a werewolf on the chorus, and somewhat miraculously, it sounded great.
“Who has a shit job? Who blows all their wages at the weekend?” enquired Archer before Living For The Weekend. This galvanised widespread cheers of approval, and it was clear from here on in that this was yet another triumph. Hard To Beat came in the encore, and transformed the room into a Saturday night disco for its duration.
If anything tonight’s gig confirmed two things. It proved that Hard-Fi have got an abundance of quality songs as well as a hugely entertaining live show. They may not be to everyone’s taste given their in-your-face-tell-it-how-it-is nature, but there’s no doubt they have the talent and potential to be massive – even though they’ll almost certainly have to revise some of their messages when those pay cheques come flooding in.