Live Review: The Subways – Brudenell Social Club, Leeds. 16.01.23

Welwyn Garden City’s indie-rock trio The Subways kicked off their UK tour at Leeds’ Brudenell Social Club with a high energy show in support of their fifth studio album  Uncertain Joys.

Critically well-received, it’s their first album in 8 years, and you can sense the desire to get back on the road and in front of a sold-out crowd from the first chords of Oh Yeah which, along with the likes of Rock and Roll Queen, With You, and No Goodbyes remain the highlights of their chart singles performance.

Yet, don’t let that make you doubt the quality of their musicality and performance. The new album marks a welcome return to form and there’s a confidence and swagger about Billy Lunn, Charlotte Cooper and newly added drummer Camille Philips as they deliver a relentlessly energetic set.

5 songs feature from the new record, giving the band the chance to showcase songwriter Lunn’s personal and political prowess. Quite a lot has changed in the world though, since their 2015 self-titled outing, and you can hear this through songs like Influencer Killed the Rock Star which laments the upsurge in fake news, conspiracies and the inherent mistrust of the internet. Sporting a t-shirt with the epithet “Solidarity with Striking Workers”, he wears his opinions quite literally on his sleeve. 

Some of the stories told throughout the set are a little meandering and slightly impact the momentum of the night. This is especially the case ahead of Turnaround where Lunn meticulously explains how the crowd will ‘go mental’ on a very specific cue from him, moving the fainter-hearted to the sides of the room to allow for a very unspontaneous mosh pit to be organised.

However, there is a poignant and worthwhile mention of The Square – a now-defunct venue in Harlow – where The Subways honed their craft. The band dedicate With You to the crowd and the joy of gathering together to listen to live music. It’s a reminder, as we hit Independent Venue Week, of the huge value of these kinds of venues. Not only as a training ground for up and coming bands, but a place where we can, after a few strange old years, get back together and revel in the glory of a shared experience.

Lunn leaves the stage only briefly during the set, and that’s only to surf around on top of the adoring crowd. The band see out the set with a 4-song encore that’s not really an encore, as they forgo the “pretentious bollocks” of going off stage for a couple of minutes. Saving their biggest hit – Rock and Roll Queen – to the very end of the set, the band ensure the crowd go home happy.

It’s been a while, but it’s nice to see The Subways above ground again, kicking off this tour in style.

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