It could be argued that Hot Hot Heat are one of the more influential bands currently around today. When they first broke big with Make Up The Breakdown in 2003, there were hardly any bands around who specialised in synth-led guitar heavy music that could be danced to.
Another band who touch what some call the zeitgeist are Northampton’s The Departure. There’s already been a steady buzz around them for the last six months or so, having released three singles and supported a whole host of big names, including The Tears and the aforementioned Killers and it won’t be too long before they’re main attractions in their own right if this support slot is anything to go by.
Clad in black and throwing the requisite rock shapes, the five piece look every inch genuine stars – although the less said about frontman David Jones’ unfortunate cravat the better. Sam Harvey and Lee Jones’ guitars mean that they have a huge sound that comes across terrifically in a small club like The Leadmill.
The sound of opening track Be My Enemy fills up the Leadmill, with Harvey and Jones’ guitars battling away like cloned versions of The Edge. The taut rhythm section of bassist Ben Winton and drummer Andy Hobson keeps things tight and give songs such as Just Like TV and All Mapped Out a superb feel.
They’re certainly bound for stardom – one tell-tale sign was cheers of appreciation for songs that haven’t even been released yet. When the album Dirty Words is released in June look out for The Departure to go stellar.
If anyone thought the departure of guitarist Dante DeCaro had affected Hot Hot Heat’s energy and stage presence, it would only take one look at the stage during the band’s opening number to convince them otherwise. DeCaro’s replacement Luke Paquin effortlessly recreates his predecessor’s riffs while frontman Steve Bays is the main focus of attention, a curly haired bundle of kinetic energy who only stops bouncing round stage to occasionally play his keyboard.
The set list is pretty evenly departed between the Make Up The Breakdown and new album Elevator. This wasn’t a problem for tonight’s audience though as they seemed to have already learnt every new song. As Bays commented: “I love Sheffield…four days since the album was released and you know every word already!”.
Highlight of the recent album Island Of The Honest Man sounded particularly good tonight and tracks such as the insanely catchy I Owe You An IOU and the old favourite Naked In The City are what Hot Hot Heat are all about – great knockabout tunes that are an immense amount of fun to throw yourself round to. The pace doesn’t let up for a second – with the exception of the excellent, slightly slower song Middle Of Nowhere – and the Leadmill crowd are all the happier for it.
The cracking Oh Goddamnit was another highpoint of the band’s set, with bassist Dustin Hawthorne being on particularly good form here. After the biting Goodnight Goodnight came the moment that the entire audience were waiting for, when the band launched into their big hit Bandages. The whole Leadmill bounced around in unison while Bay threw himself into the crowd, only to be rescued by a worried looking security guard. Not that Bays cared – whether it be encouraging the audience to clap in unison, dancing non-stop or generally working the crowd into a frenzy, he was very much the consummate frontman.
Sadly our time was curtailed due to a club night due to start at the venue, and after the appropriate Running Out Of Time the lights were up with almost indecent haste. The UK pretenders may have appropriated their sound, but nobody still throws a party like Hot Hot Heat.