Manchester Roadhouse, Saturday 31st January 2009
Fighting With Wire
It’s a cold Saturday night and the streets of Manchester are filled with students frittering away their loans amongst the many bars of the Northern Quarter and I expect to see a similar crowd when I enter The Roadhouse except tonight, it’s brimming with only a sense of apathy amongst the predominately black t shirted mix of old and young.
It doesn’t really fill me with confidence for what I am about to witness.
Nevertheless, as the audience grows, the temperature steadily rises and there’s a noticeable buzz in the room as the support band depart and the stage empties of gear. So much so that the only indication the main band is about to play is the eager crowd starting to slowly squash forward, cameras poised, plaid shirts tied around their waist anticipating the inevitable sweat fest.
Having never seen them before, I presumed from listening to Fighting With Wire that there would be a pedal board the size of a railway platform and an Ayers Rock sized drum kit so I was surprised by the minimal set up. However, they waste no time in attempting to make rib cages rattle, ear drums bleed and when looking at front man, Cahir; it’s hard to believe that such a delightful roar could come from a guy who looks charming enough to take home to meet your grandma without fear of frightening her to death.
Before we’re even a minute into the second song, he’s jumping onto the makeshift “barrier” at the front of the stage, which he continues to do throughout the gig, leaning into the crowd as a sea of camera phone wielding arms reach up to try and get the closest picture possible of what can suitably be described as a bona fide rock star, proving that you don‘t have to be hanging off the arm of Amy Winehouse to accurately live up to the title.
After some playful banter where Cahir invites a cheeky member of the crowd to come up onstage and plant a big kiss on his face, which seems to be met with both laughter and bewilderment (but no kiss), we‘re treated to “Long Distance.” It’s grungey and bass heavy and gets a great singalong reaction from those at the front. The less lyrically knowledgeable nod their heads and stomp their feet approvingly.
They seem to also be playing a lot of new material tonight which adds a certain spirited feel to the performance but the most impressive thing I noticed is that very few bands who display as much energy as Fighting With Wire manage to sustain it for the entire duration of the gig. Less ambitious bands break it up with a few slightly mellower songs but these guys are relentless.
The only noticeable breaks come in the form of occasional guitar tuning and a well received tirade about Iggy Pop’s recent insurance advert which Cahir (and nearly everyone else in the room) seems disappointed with.
It’s not surprising that they’ve been compared with bands like Biffy Clyro and At The Drive In because of this relentless energy and probably also because of the way in which the crisp unadulterated guitar sounds really stand out amongst a characteristically heavy bass line not to mention the frenzied (and massively impressive) drumming to give it that extra adrenaline kick.
It’s also great to see a band who keep it simple by not feeling the need to use dozens of different instruments, FX pedals or similar, yet still managing to make an enormous sound, all the while still emphasising the all important minor details in the music.
This was the first gig of 2009 for me, but it’s definitely one which set the bar pretty high for everything else I’ll see this year to be compared against.