Gig Review

Howling Bells
Manchester, Academy 3
20th September 2011
Howling Bells        
Cold Specks isn’t a band, it’s a one woman Canadian soul-fest and I would be telling you all about how captivating she was live if I wasn’t busy trudging through the fresher filled streets of Manchester. Okay, so I was having a drink at a vaguely pretentious bar, I’m kicking myself now. The bar staff tell me she was fabulous and if Soundcloud is anything to go by then those well-educated individuals know what they’re talking about.

Though I may not have been there to witness it, it’s a bloody good job someone was fabulous on this dreary Tuesday because Howling Bells were frankly a little dull, coasting on their post-Coldplay success, which was all the way back in 2009.

As a promotional tour for their new record The Loudest Engine they kicked off with album opener ‘Charlatan’ which opens the festivities in the most subdued way possible as the band tilt tiresomely while playing a song that seems redundant even before it’s over. ‘Blessed Night’ with a chorus you can wail along to picks things up slightly, but the rather mixed crowd of dads and the silent indie types just don’t seem to be in to it, in fact the only people who appeared to be enjoying it were the photographers catching drum sticks down the front.

Clearly realising that Radio Wars wasn’t worth its weight in air-time the band only featured one song from the record instead focusing on new material with a few old ‘hits’ thrown in for good measure. ‘Setting Sun’, ‘A Ballad For The Broken Hearts’ and ‘Broken Bones’ being the only three songs left in the set not to be new material. The former with its spangly guitars and almost epic chorus is one of the most interesting songs played and lets the guitarists show off a bit while Juanita (vocals) can throw some shapes on stage; she appears to just be stretching for an hour and a half, probably jet-lag.

It might seem harsh to rip into a decent enough band and their sound translates live exactly as it does on record, it’s flush and full of the same studio perfect sound you get through your stereo, but when you aren’t all that exciting and you aren’t captivating it’s just not enough. Not only did the audience look bored, but the band just seemed to be going through the motions. Barely a word was uttered other than to tell us that Manchester is their favourite destination and, “We’re so glad to be ending our tour here,” and about how Joel wrote ‘Sioux’ about a woman they met on a train travelling through America; remember when anecdotes were fun? Me either because all the life has been drained out of this room over a period of what seems like months, but is in fact only minutes. The only moment of humanity came when before the encore Juanita truthfully said, “Sorry we would have been back sooner, but our drummer had to take a piss,” that’s the sort of banter we want from the woman Gigwise once named “the sexiest woman in rock.”

Howling Bells have some good songs like ‘The Faith’, but then they also have songs like ‘Gold Sons, White Guns’ which on Tuesday night had Kate Bush turning in her ornate bed and me wishing I’d finished that disgusting, worse than at a festival, pint of piss I had in my hand only ten minutes ago. A quick trip to the bar sorted everything out.
There are bands like Coldplay who know how to entertain massive arenas of people with a cheap set of fireworks and some swanky piano based power-pop and there are bands like Howling Bells who will forever be supporting the Coldplay’s of the world. You get the feeling Howling Bells won’t be happy with this, but then what do they expect when they don’t put any effort into their performance?

Howling Bells 3/5

Review By Lauren Mullineaux

 Howling Bells

Glenn Moule
Brendan Picchio
Joel Stein
Juanita Stein

 Band Related Links
Howling Bells Myspace
 Review Score Code
- Top Cheese
- Brilliant
- Pretty damn good
- Ok I guess
- What Was That?