Monday, 31 October 2011
Hurts Review Düsseldorf Mitsubishi Electric Halle 4th October 2011
It’s lush, rich and gloriously crafted – the now fiftysomething Pet Shop Boys finally have their heirs. There’s that same sense of being simultaneously lightweight and bubbling with pathos, and the sense that there’s no such thing as too many layers of sound.... quality pop is as important as quality rock or indie or hip hop or punk and I really wish there was more of it around.
The lights go down and the additional players take their positions. Back home HURTS can pack the Ritz – itself a long-recognised signifier that a Manchester band has “made it” to a certain level – but here they’re bond fide mainstream pop stars, as we discovered last year on a trip to Switzerland: our boys from back home were barely off the (German) pop stations piped into cafes and bars. So this isn’t just a gig, it’s a show. The eleven-piece band including string quartet sit motionless as searchlight-style spotlights sweep the red glow and two hooded figures walk to the front and unfurl black flags. The strings and drums crash into life and the immaculately-suited duo stride on to screams, launching into “Silver Lining” – and it’s one of the most ridiculous, ostentatiously brilliant things I’ve seen in the live music canon in ages. The sound is just enormous – all credit to whoever helped with the orchestration arrangement here. So what if it’s all plotted and scripted to the hilt: from Take That’s dance routines to Rammstein’s pyromanic showpieces it always is at this level. “Wonderful Life” is next, with the capes and flags discarded to reveal two balletic and somewhat interpretative dancers: you just don’t get this sort of thing – or indeed the harp which will make an appearance later – in the grubby indie basements where much of our musical life is played out. http://www.informationhurts.com/
It was, however, in a particularly grubby indie basement that Theo Hutchcraft and Adam Anderson first caught our eye. The basement was Manchester’s Music Box, in 2006 – a great new bands night by High Voltage fanzine which presented four fresh-out-the-box bands every Thursday – and the band was Bureau, fresh out of school. (Interestingly one of the other near-debutantes that evening was a young post-hardcore trio called Dresden, whose intense 17-year-old frontman Cal Wright is now better known as acclaimed techno act D/R/U/G/S). Theo bounced around the stage like all the adrenaline he’d collected in his eighteen or so years on earth was all coming out at once; I wrote “Bureau are a pop band in the best possible sense of the word. They look and sound like they’ve landed fully formed from some planet where 80s synthpop never got corporate and dreary.” Soon after, a largely forgotten Dexys offshoot called THE Bureau forced them to change their name; sadly their debut single (also courtesy of High Voltage) had already been pressed, so Daggers were forced to promote a single (“After Midnight”, worth hunting down if you like electropop I once decribed in print as “so 1982 it could sink an Argentine warship”) that didn’t even have their name on it. Then one day thieves cleared every last thing from their rehearsal room and they called it a day. It was a while before the surviving duo resurfaced, the glam disco clobber exchanged for evening-wear and the thumping Eurobeats for… well, this.
It’s lush, rich and gloriously crafted – the now fiftysomething Pet Shop Boys finally have their heirs. There’s that same sense of being simultaneously lightweight and bubbling with pathos, and the sense that there’s no such thing as too many layers of sound. Songs that come across as a bit weedy on the pair’s debut album, such as “Evelyn”, have grown legs, wings and guts. “Sunday” – probably the closest to that upbeat Euro sound that they get these days – has echoes of Giorgio Moroder, himself influenced by the synthetic wonders of Kraftwerk and their peerless mid 70s innovations: innovations which laid the foundations for modern electronic pop music, on a quiet street less than a mile from here.
Hurts’ show is spectacular. The dancers come on for a quick turn with the string quartet before the boys re-emerge with the pseudo-operatic torchsong “Verona” and their party trick of turning Kylie’s “Confide In Me” into the Pet Shop Boys song it always was at heart. The final “Stay” is magnificent and encore “Better Than Love” feels almost transcendentally joyful. And yeah, in a day or two I’ll be back in grubby indie basements, but this was a fantastic excursion. No guilty pleasures crap here – quality pop is as important as quality rock or indie or hip hop or punk and I really wish there was more of it around. - http://louderthanwar.com/