Academy 3, Manchester. 05/12/2009
By Ian Burke
It’s difficult to fight indifference, just ask This City frontman, Chris Purr, whose repeated pleas for the audience to edge closer to the stage fall on reluctant ears, and the foolproof clap-your-hand-above-your-head gambit is cruelly greeted with an audible titter.
In truth, the Brighton quintet’s happy post-hardcore is ruined by the scrawny singer, his vocal style akin to shouting muffled threats down a phone line to a bemused pensioner, while he busts stiff-backed moves like a marionette Mick Jagger throughout. His chiding of drummer, Nick Burdett, for a slight error is nothing short of embarrassing, the horror of it all etched on Appalachian guitarist, Grant Coleman’s face.
Musically, they’re sound, but Purr’s mic skills are comparable to the most painful open spots on the comedy circuit. Needless to say, the audience crams to the front as soon as they leave.
The reason for all this jostling, of course, is the return to the fray of search engine nightmares, ‘A’, who are on their first headline tour since October 2005, and their 2nd trip to town since unexpectedly reforming last year for a quick jaunt with The Wildhearts.
They fivesome appear wearing immense grins, the opening duo of ‘If It Ain’t Broke, Fix It Anyway’ and ‘Monkey Kong’ sounding as good as they did when they were released a decade ago, the ravages of time having clearly been kind to their cheery pop.
Jason Perry’s distinctive nordic skiing dancing remains in tact, too, his arms in full swing as the “old fuckers” in attendance threaten to breach the ceiling below with their expanded waistlines and manic bouncing, many of which are doing so – judging by the unnatural torrents of sweat soaking the participants – for the first time in years.
It wasn’t just ‘A”s bright outlook, but also their unrelenting enthusiasm for the best job in the world, which brought them to the public’s bosom, and despite the muscular ‘Nothing’ being their biggest hit, we’re regaled with a story of them breaking into ‘The Birdie Song’ during it in front of the head of MTV Europe and the president of their former label at a festival in Germany.
They were accused of being a joke band by the stuffier sections of the music press, but there are very few bands capable of penning choruses as infectious as those on ‘Old Folks’, ‘Foghorn’ or the still phenomenal ‘I Love Lake Tahoe’.
There has never been another band remotely like ‘A’, and it takes fantastic nights and performances like this to make us realise just what we’ve been missing.