Live Review: Lisbon / Feral Mantra / The Wired at The Rocking Chair, Sheffield, 18/02/16

Lisbon's Matty Varty at The Rocking Chair

Lisbon are the kind of band it’s very easy to get excited about. They’re enthusiastic about their music, whether it’s finessing new material in the studio, getting the tech just right ahead of a gig, or playing one of their fun-drenched, sweat-soaked gigs to a highly appreciative audience. They’re also incredibly savvy when it comes to social media, fan interaction and building up a profile for themselves. I’m orbiting very near the plane of being a superfan having now caught the band four times over the last three years and by accident, I managed to see the opening night of their recent month-long tour in Hull at Fruit and the belated last date (rescheduled due to illness) in Sheffield at the Rocking Chair.

But before I get to Lisbon, we are treated to two support acts. First up, as a prelude to their support slot with The SSS at the Leadmill, we get The Wired, or rather, The Wired’s lead singer, the delightfully monikered Caleb Smelt, doing a late notice acoustic set which showcases the Sheffield band’s style rather well. All floppy hair and earnest vocals, Caleb delivers a half dozen jangling indie pop songs about life and love which will sit nicely alongside other Sheffield band’s output, such as Bayonet and the Arctic Monkeys.

Caleb Smelt
The Wired’s lead singer at The Rocking Chair

Tracks like “Fit the Feel” and “Don’t Settle For Second” are soaring and heartfelt and Caleb ably fills the room with just his voice and guitar. I look forward to seeing the full band versions of these tracks.
Check The Wired out on twitter, Youtube and soundcloud.

Next up are Feral Mantra, hailing from nearby Doncaster and looking like a rock band created in a wonderful science lab. Frontman Jim Rollins is slightly apologetic about this being their first gig in a while, but he need not have been, as they hammer through an intense, retro-flavoured rock set which barely lets up between songs and comes to a wonderful end with new single “Lost”.

Jim Rollins
Feral Mantra’s Jim Rollins at The Rocking Chair

The band may make headlines for Jim Rollins’ impressive rock hair do, but when it comes to the music, they’re equally on the money. Occasionally, they’re the Manic Street Preachers, then Def Leppard, then James or Razorlight or Mansun and at one point, they’re even Alice Deejay(!) but always Feral Mantra and I can’t wait to hear more from them.
Check them out on YouTube, soundcloud and Facebook.

Finally, Lisbon take to the stage. Reviewing them is easy. Every song in their set is a pop jewel and whilst they may tinker with their set lists on a daily basis, there’s never a clunker in the line up and it’s actually sad they don’t have time to fit every track in every time. There must be a degree of experimentation for a band still on the verge of hitting the big time, with a dedication to playing the fan favourite hits (“I Don’t Know”, “Khaleesi”), the early stuff which saw them make a convincing debut (“Native”, “B L U E L O V E”) and newer material which sees them both hit familiar strides (“Vice”) and also venture into new directions (“Blow” and “Cool”).

Ahead of the gig, lead singer Matty spoke of how he sees other frontmen comfortably take charge at their respective gigs, regardless of the size of the crowd, whereas for him, it can be more difficult until both he and the crowd are warmed up. His fears have no chance of being realised tonight as the crowd are suitably good to go and the intimate Rocking Chair cellar is stuffed to the rafters. Matty is exuberant, beaming proudly with a still-can’t-quite-believe-it look as the crowd sings along, and encouraging both halves of the crowd (one side is definitely the more hardcore fanbase) to match one another, clapping, waving and some funky dancing. Other band members are equally electric, with Alex (Wrighty) relishing every drum beat and channeling some serious energy into his drum kit, Gaz swaggering effortlessly through some tricky but well-honed basslines and Joe, turning from early serious focus as he ensures sound levels are spot on, to mischief as he leaps around the stage, one minute on the drum kit, the next, naughtily getting in the way of his bandmates.

Matty and Gaz
Matty and Gaz from Lisbon at The Rocking Chair

Lisbon are clearly a band having a great deal of fun, but also seriously making headway in the industry with a set bristling with future singles awaiting a larger audience. Radio 1 are already on-message, with Huw Stephens and Annie Mac playing previous tracks and giving lots of love to latest cut “Vice” which comes towards the end of the set. It’s strange to say that Lisbon already have a defining sound, but “Vice” is definitely 100% Lisbon: cool, instantly-catchy, jangly and summery. The set winds down with their 1975-ish “B L U E L O V E”, a tribute to the audience and their fans (Matty acknowledges the cheesy gesture with a cheeky introduction) and finally, the stomping “Rio”, which sounds like it should always be accompanied by a 1980s Bond chase sequence complete with speedboats. As they finish, this their last song of the whole tour, they are thoroughly appreciative of their audience, keen to meet the fans and not just vanish into the night, despite being sweaty and having given their all. Their audience has doubled since the last time they played here and it’s clear that next time, they may need larger venues, something Matty agrees with afterwards.

They have big announcements coming (new single and video, support slots across the UK) and 2016 is sure to be the year they really hit the big time.

Lisbon are very active on Facebook, twitter and their own website and YouTube channel, but as I said before, live is the best option!
Lisbon will be supporting Model Aeroplanes at their London (Barfly, 7th), Brighton (Green Door Store, 8th) and Manchester (Night & Day, 12th) dates in March 2016 as well as playing alongside Lyger at Koko, London on March 25th.
Details here and here.

• Liberty City
• Shark
• Khaleesi
• I Don’t Know
• Blow
• Natïve
• Good 2 Me
• Vice
• Bluelove
• Rio

Previous Album Review: Wild Nothing - Life of Pause
Next Meet: Lisbon - Matty Varty returns for a chat

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