Nine Black Alps have the sort of work ethic that puts Pete “oh, should I turn up for this gig or not?” Doherty to shame. As well as solidly gigging for the last couple of years, their current tour sees them clock up 11 gigs in nine days, of which 6 are freebies in rather unusual places.
Sheffield’s Royal Society For The Blind, and combined with the early start time of 1pm and some typically British summery weather of pouring rain outside, it made for a decidedly surreal experience. The weather had obviously put some off venturing out as the hall was half-full when Nine Black Alps walked on stage, but all that was forgotten as they launched into Not Everyone.
There’s been much made of the comparisons to Nirvana that Nine Black Alps have picked up and it’s true that there are certain similarities in that their songs are both ferociously heavy and endearingly melodic. Not Everyone rocks hard yet also possesses a singalong chorus and should have been a much bigger hit than it eventually was.
Yet if you’re going to be influenced by a band it may as well be one of the best, and we should all be thankful that they’re not yet another gang of Bravery wannabes. Sam Forrest looks every inch the rock star with his plaid shirt and hair covering his eyes – a sight that had the older audience members recalling Mark Gardiner of Ride.
“This is a bit weird isn’t it?” said Forrest at one point. “Well, we’ve got no setlist either, so just call out anything you want to hear”. Audience favourites such as Shot Down and Ironside were duly dusted off, with bassist Martin Cohen and guitarist David Jones often swapping instruments and stage places depending on the song.
The mighty Cosmopolitan had the kids near the front of the stage moshing, while early B-side Over The Ocean proved that they didn’t just save their strongest tracks for Everything Is. The highlight of the short set was undoubtedly Unsatisfied – starting with a U2-style guitar riff, it developed into the type of song that the word ‘anthem’ was invented for. If this doesn’t become their crossover hit, there’s no justice in the world.
Ending the half hour set with Get Your Guns, the band left no doubt that they’re one of the better new bands to appear this year. It’s a shame we didn’t see more of their quieter side, as the relentless barrage of noisy rock proved a bit over-powering at times. Yet it seems churlish to criticise a free gig and as the band walked off stage to travel the 120 miles or so to Bedford for that evening’s gig, you had to admire their energy.