Portsmouth band reach new heights (groan)
So on the 31st August I headed down to by far the most impressive venue for a gig I have ever seen: The Spinnaker Tower. The reason I was there was to see Portsmouth band Heronshaw release their debut EP, The Truth, It Hurts. The sharply dressed crowd ascended a full 100 metres upwards, we were treated to a pretty stunning view of the whole of Portsmouth by night, and one very fitting for a band raised there, and playing what could be their last gig on home turf before the core of the band relocates to London and university.
But before they could take to the very impressive stage, positioned directly in front of the terrifying glass floor, it was time for the opening acts. First up was Cherrelle Jefferson, playing a set of pop covers that culminated in a rousing rendition of ‘Call Me Maybe’ as the crowd tried to pretend that it didn’t know all the words. Supported by a jazzy keyboard and electro-acoustic guitar, Cherrelle closed her set with a version of her debut single ‘Girlfriend’, which became an entirely different beast to the recorded version, below.
Next was Fifi Smart. She opened with ‘Hazy’, moving into a new as-yet untitled song before playing a completely acapella version of (the Jeff Buckley version of) Lilac Wine that earnt rapturous applause from the growing audience. Fifi had picked tonight to release her debut solo single ‘Only He‘, unquestionably her most mature song to date, and so for the performance of it she brought on guest Anna Roberts to play Cello and provide backing vocals. It was a great move and helped make the live sound closer to the layers found on the record. She then closed with a cheesy as hell cover of Elton John’s ‘Crocodile Rock’, as an apology for not playing anything happy, and actually managed to get a bit of a sing-a-long going, against all good reason.
So the time came for Heronshaw to take to the stage, as people braved the glass floor to get closer to the action and Mr Brightside pumped out of the PA. Wasting no time they launched straight into the opening song off their brand new EP, and my my personal favourite of their tracks, ‘Moving On, Moving Up’. It’s a raucous belter and the band more than do it justice when they play it. Just before they went on stage I managed to grab a couple words with lead singer Tom, and his comments about just wanting to go out on a big bang after the extraordinary effort the band and those helping have put in with the EP and setting up the show are clearly evident in the energy the band have on the stage. There’s a youthful energy thats very strongly reminiscent of early Gomez when they produced the album that won the Mercury Music Award, especially in the chorus of “so get out of my face” that is just cheeky enough to pull off.
They then follow that up with a very bluesy duo of their own song ‘Bluesy Swordsfish’ and a cover of Blur’s ‘Song 2’ that shows off some very cool piano skills. From then on the set shifts from the raucous bluesy/americana sound to a more grounded pop/rock vibe indebted to the Coldplay / Mumford school of modern music. The band is a five piece of two guitarists, a drummer, a bassist and a front man on vocals, keys or guitar. It should also be mentioned that their vocal harmonies are something to be envious of, as they are phenomenally tight and they manage to be kept up perfectly when they really rock out.
As the set enters its second half the band shows off the other two songs that feature on the EP, ‘Arms Length’, and ‘Open Sea’. Inbetween them is ‘India’ which can be seen above and showcases a more folky side to the band and features some tasty harmonica work. ‘Open Sea’ is the last original the band play and is built up hugely with all the band members driving away as the song gets bigger and bigger and the harmonies are roared. They close with two equally epic covers, ending on a version of ‘Hey Ya’ that is completely successful at getting the entire tower singing along.
As the band starta to stagger off, no one quite believes it, and when the chant of encore gets going the band quickly reclaimed their places for a romp through Mumford and Sons’ ‘Little Lion Man’ which they played suitably epicly to close what was an immense night out.
As I and my gig companion Ralph sprint across Gunwharf Quays to catch the last train back to Winchester by exactly 50 seconds, we have just enough time to reflect upon the gig and we agree it was mightily impressive. Heronshaw gave a fitting end to their time in Portsmouth, 100 metres above the town in which they began. It’s a perfect way to start what Tom described as “the next chapter in our bandship”.
You can buy the EP ‘The Truth, It Hurts’ by clicking the artwork above, or go to the pages for Heronshaw on facebook, twitter or youtube. For a choice range of pictures from the night, check out this album by photographer Jack MacNally.