Last summer, I entered a writing competition to win a job reviewing gigs.
I didn’t win, and the review is available to view here, but I felt it wouldn’t be inappropriate to reprint it here for the sake of Root Fifth Blogtave‘s content quota.
If you’ve followed my social media channels over the past 12 months, you may have seen this already. Well, see it again!
Brighton’s Blood Red Shoes have been at this game a while now, and they’ve only gotten better and more mature since 2008’s Box of Secrets. On 24/4, they brought their brand of stripped-down stage minimalism and big guitar riffs to Birmingham’s O2 Academy with a setlist that draws effectively on the duo’s entire back catalogue.
And what a back catalogue they have at this point. I don’t know if having four albums of pretty consistently killer tunes makes picking which ones to take on the road an easy job or not, but BRS have balanced old favourites from their first two albums with the notably darker, grungier material from 2012’s In Time To Voices, the Water EP from last year and their most recent eponymous album.
The two of them walk out onto a dark misty stage and take their places. Things get going a little later than planned thanks to technical problems, with the band visibly fed up with having to cut the set slightly shorter. When they announce the start of proceedings with the opener from their latest album, ‘Welcome Home’, the antsy crowd gives in to the energy of the music and the wait for the main act is but a memory. This track sets the tone of the entire set, with a bass-heavy yet energetic riff that seems to encapsulate most of the band’s repertoire. From here, they ramp the energy right up with the anthemic ‘I Wish I Was Someone Better’ before playing upcoming single ‘Speech Coma’ (notable for having its gory body-horror themed promo clip banned by MTV).
Their set follows a pattern of showcasing the band’s ability to stand firmly at the nexus of punk, indie and grunge but, perhaps because of being in Birmingham, the city that birthed Metal, it’s definitely the heavy tracks that have the most impact. It’s these tracks, where Laura-Mary Carter’s riffs are like the growl of a fuzz pedal forged in Asgard for Thor himself, which left this audience member beaming. The two-piece format requires very disciplined musicians taking far more responsibility for the music than in larger ensembles, but having two quality vocalists who also play their instruments incredibly well seems unfair on the rest of the world. Steven Ansell, apart from being one of the rare drummers/vocalists of the world (which are probably the two most difficult roles in any band), is simply a terrific drummer, precise and energetic.
‘Colours Fade’ closes the main set, an atmospheric performance aided by minimal lighting and strobing as the song builds with the chanting “ah-ah ahh ahh”. They left the stage, a Gibson SG propped against the Marshall generating an angry drone of feedback as we wondered if the late start would rob everyone of an encore. Lucky for us, they retook the stage to give us another three of their finest songs including ‘Red River’, possibly the heaviest tune of the night. They finished on a particularly raucous ‘Je Me Perds’, culminating in Laura-Mary doing her best to kick the drum kit to bits before casting her guitar to the ground.
In terms of band-members-to-noise ratio, I don’t think any band can quite match Blood Red Shoes. They own every inch of their sonic landscape and put it all to effective use, which makes for a cracking gig and easily one of the best rock bands around right now.