Smith Westerns – Live at The Ritz, Manchester 03/04/2011

Review by Scott Zverblis

Smith Westerns produced one of my favourite albums of last year with the excellent ‘Dye It Blonde’, so to say that I am really looking forward to this gig is an understatement. The gig sold out well in advance, due to being headlined by the current darlings of indie rock, The Vaccines.

Things get off to a rocking start with the first support act The Ceasars , who treat the audience to some good old fashioned 1950’s  rebellious teenager Rockabilly! Brylcreamed quiffs, double bass, hand-claps and a whole lotta shaking going on. Now the last time I saw something like that was old footage of The Stray Cats on The Tube (the Channel 4 music show in eighties, not the underground rail network in London).

After a relatively short period Smith Westerns shuffle onstage and without any introduction, launch into the first song.

Decked out in their finest grunge rock attire, the floppy haired band from Chicago, Illinois get off to a decent start. Four tracks from the latest album and they sound pretty good, the vocals do start off a little bit iffy, but a minute in and they are soon sorted out once the levels have been adjusted.

Standout tracks includ ‘All Die Young’, ‘End of the Night’ and ‘Be My Girl’, which sound as though they could have been recorded in Bowie’s Tony Visconti years.

Problems start part way into the set though for me. The Dye It Blonde album has a distinct glam rock meets grunge feel sound to it, a sound which has been fantastically reined in by the producer, so it was interesting to see how the songs would sound performed live.
All in all, what could have been a truly excellent performance, ends up being dull and laboured to the point that I am bored by the end. This isn’t helped by the fact that all the songs seem to merge into each other, with little audience interaction between. An audience, who are – to be honest with you – just waiting patiently for The Vaccines.

Although this is all very disappointing, the biggest let down of the night is their best song to date and previous single, ‘Weekend’. It is a brilliantly catchy song, but live it sounds muddy, tinny and a far cry from the glorious track that it is on record.

Despite a large percentage of the crowd’s indifference to them, they do receive a good reception as they leave the stage, paving the way for the arrival of the most hyped band of the year.

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