Lisbon first came onto my radar last year when I accidentally caught them supporting Saint Motel at Plug in Sheffield. They were enthusiastic, exciting and totally deserving of a bigger crowd than their support slot offered them. In the months since this visit to Sheffield, they’ve been working on their material and should see an EP release “Life is Good” in the coming weeks. They also managed to record and release two more insanely catchy singles to add to their discography which now totals 5 perfect indie pop gems with many more awaiting release. I was lucky enough to speak to lead singer Matthew Varty ahead of their intimate gig at Sheffield’s The Rocking Chair and a full interview will follow shortly. He spoke of the band’s slow and steady approach to reaching the top, with early support slots for some big names, a tight little headline tour around some of the UK’s most talked about venues and not rushing out their first album in favour of building up an audience via those aforementioned earworm singles which Radio 1 have sat up and not only taken notice of, but are now championing.
Before Lisbon take to the corner stage in the depths of The Rocking Chair’s superbly cosy basement live room, we are treated to a slot from an exciting young Sheffield band, Bayonet. Comprising Vince, Lewis, Danny and Sam, Bayonet are an indie band designed for posters on teenage girl’s bedroom walls. They play dreamy indie pop tunes which flirt between the 1975, the Arctic Monkeys and any of those newer breed of boybands who play instruments when they’re not busy focusing on looking good, like say Lawson, the Vamps or 5 Seconds of Summer. Between the two capable lead singers, well-groomed bassist and enthusiastic drummer, they’re one of those rare bands without an un-photogenic member. Tracks like “Work it Out”, “Seventeen” and “My View” showcase their unapologetically Sheffield-twanging vocals, relatable lyrics and jangly guitars and beats. They even manage to coolly segue into Modjo’s “Lady Hear Me Tonight” at one point. It’s easy to see how they can win over a crowd.
On to the headliners: Lisbon are made up of Matthew, Gaz, Alex and Joe, all school friends from Whitley Bay in the north east. Their accomplished sound belies their youthfulness and relative inexperience in the spotlight, but to see them live, you would think them more than ready for the upper leagues, with polished performances, great chemistry and a thoroughly likeable nature which comes across both in interviews and their interactions with the crowd.
Their sound is one perfectly honed for summertime mixing hazy electronic backing track loops, frantic snatches of guitar, insistent drums and honest vocals which are both melodic and snarling as required. Opening track “B L U E L O V E” is a 1975-esque dreamlike track which introduces a catchy backing before stripping it all away for Matthew’s warm vocals and then layering everything back up again before the euphoric chorus. It’s a song to enjoy with someone you love in a field at a festival.
During our interview, Matthew explained how their 12 song set list tonight could easily be their debut album if they recorded it now and it’s not hard to agree as track after track is memorable and accomplished. Reaching the superbly radio-friendly “Native” only four songs in, you begin to realise just how strong their catalogue is already. It begins with more dream-like swirls and stave-defying, carefully plucked backing guitar which Joe channels his intensity into to bring the track together with Matthew’s vocals. The song, a tribute to their home town and their experiences, is joyous and made for both radio and stadiums. The high mark of quality continues with newest single “Khaleesi”, an ode to the much-loved “Game of Thrones” character Daenerys Targaryen and perfectly timed for release as the latest season comes to an end. It sounds like Duran Duran at their catchiest, melding electronica and rock and is a cool love song which could easily have been an 80s Bond theme. “Liberty City” comes next, with the band channelling more of their influences, this time it’s a soaring ode to “Grand Theft Auto”.
The small but wildly enthusiastic audience get to rest a little during “Ambient” before going mad again for big-hit-in-waiting “I Don’t Know”. With its oriental chords from the off which are joined by a backing which sounds like a pleasant mix of sirens and electric drills, piercing drums and more of Matthew’s plaintive vocals, it’s a real highlight of an already impressive set. As with all of Lisbon’s catchiest songs, it’s impossible not to find yourself clapping along and tapping your toes. The set ends with “Rio”, yet another storming track, again channelling a little Duran Duran (though not just through the name “Rio”) with gymnastic guitars, a chorus which defies being chanted along to and a structure which balances energetic bombastic segments, quieter verses then ends before you want it to.
Lisbon are sweaty by the end and the audience appreciative. They’ve earned their plaudits and hang around to meet the fans reinforcing again how down to earth the band are. They continue their tour round the UK and I can’t state highly enough how important it is to see this band in such intimate surroundings before they really take off.
• B L U E L O V E
• Come Down Easy
• Don’t Wanna Die
• Liberty City
• I Don’t Know
• Good 2 Me
Lisbon are active on Facebook, twitter and their own website and YouTube channel, but as I said before, live is the best option! Check them out at York, Leicester, Banbury, Sunderland, Leeds, Whitley Bay (of course!), Stoke, Middlesbrough, London and festivals like Kendal Calling and Forgotten Fields in Sussex. Details here: