Once Upon A Time In Liverpool, Hard-Fi played their first headlining gig. Actually, it was six months ago – and now with a best-selling album stuffed down the back of their pants, the boys from Staines return in triumph. “We could have sold this place out twice over” crows lead singer Richard Archer. With a whiff of good-natured arrogance he goes on to ask “How does it feel to be at the hottest ticket in town?” – the crowd roars its heartfelt reply - we feel rather privileged, from the sound of it.
Ennio Morricone’s chilling ‘The Man With The Harmonica’ pumps out of the PA system to herald the arrival of the boys from the wild west of the capital. Running onto the stage like eager kids desperate to show you their new toys, they fly straight into ‘Middle Eastern Holiday’ and continue through to ‘Gotta Reason’ without pausing for air. The backdrop states quite succinctly ‘HARD-FI in operation’ – tonight, that’s putting it mildly.
|"The floor becomes a giant wooden trampoline as the ’Fi sing the best song about breaking into the big time since Oasis’ ‘Rock ‘n’ Rock Star’. "|
“Hi Liverpool – we’re f**king made up to be back” – Archer sure knows how to sweet talk an audience – every scouser in the room is still busy whooping and cheering as ‘Unnecessary Trouble’ kicks in. There’s just no panic cos' I'm necessary trouble / Just make sure you cause trouble when it's necessary - the fans spit back every word like some great big dirty rock ‘n’ roll karaoke contest.
“I know you probably think we say this at every gig, but [guess what kids!?] WE LOVE THIS CITY!!” We don’t care if Richard means it or not – we’re suckers for flattery. ‘Better Do Better’ sees Archer taking no prisoners – he screams out each and every syllable as though he is fighting his way through a blizzard of piercing feedback. The sheer racket of Hard-Fi live is so ballsy and in-your-face that their otherwise cracking debut album sounds positively sterile in comparison.
Archer removes his jacket and gets our hands clapping in the air for ‘Tied Up Too Tight’ with it’s Na-na-na-na-naa-naaaaaah chorus (isn’t that the Kaiser Chief’s favourite bit of filler?) and all the boys and girls sing / straight out of west London yo you better make way – the moshpit goes ballistic, the gathered hoard pogoing with all their might.
“Anyone here from Feltham?” asks Archer. The crowd falls silent. “Thought not – it’s a s**t hole”. Still, a classic television documentary about the local young offenders institute inspired the band to write ‘Feltham Is Singing Out’. Then comes a bit of an oddity. A cover of White Stripes classic ‘7 Nation Army’ which Hard-Fi have made very much their own. With a cockney accent replacing Jack Whites Detroit howl and a Melodica (a blowy keyboard thingy) replacing those iconic bass notes, the result is… ahem, well, let’s just call it ‘interesting’ and leave it at that.
Segueing straight into ‘Cash Machine’, Hard-Fi spell out what it like to be young and broke (why does life wait until you are old and boring before you are allowed to have any money?). Makes you wonder what they are going to sing about when those royalties start rolling in… “I wanna see everybody in the room jump up and down” demands Archer before launching into ‘Hard To Beat’. The crowd complies with gusto. The floor becomes a giant wooden trampoline as the ’Fi sing the best song about breaking into the big time since Oasis’ ‘Rock ‘n’ Rock Star’. Can you feel it? / Rocking the city / Ah yeah – Straight out of nowhere-ness. We can tonight.
And after a quick break Archer returns to the stage for solo effort ‘Move On Now’ – the compulsory rock ballad, complete with searing falsetto, heartfelt lyrics concerning girlfriend dumpage and suitably low-key ending. As we wipe a sarcastic tear from our collective eyes, the rest of the band return for infectious title track ‘Stars Of CCTV’. Archer demands to see the whole audience clapping, and with the reverse floodlights on, there is nowhere to hide – non-compliance is not an option. With our arms in the air, it’s hard to wipe the smirks from our faces. We are here, now. And it feels great.
“Liverpool - you’re unbelievable!”. Our cheers of self-applauding agreement morph into groans of revulsion as Archer manages to squeeze about three pints of sweat out of his saturated t-shirt. “Hands up if you hate your job and the pay is s**t”. The hands eagerly shoot up into the air, knowing what is coming next. “This song is for you” announces Archer as this Saturday night gig is rounded off with the painfully apt ‘Living For The Weekend’. When it gets too much / I live for the rush / Got some money to spend / Living for the weekend. Hell yeah! The crowd bounces in unison, fists in the air, loving every second.
Hanging around at the end to lap up as much applause as possible, Hard-Fi bow out for the evening, taking with them a self-assured swagger which says the past was yours but the futures mine – put simply, if you haven’t tuned into this year’s indipod revolution, you’re yesterday’s news, granddad. Get back to tending your allotment, we’ve got bigger fish to fry.
MIDDLE EASTERN HOLIDAY
BETTER DO BETTER
TIED UP TOO TIGHT
SICK OF IT ALL
FELTHAM IS SINGING OUT
7 NATION ARMY
HARD TO BEAT
MOVE ON NOW
STARS OF CCTV
LIVING FOR THE WEEKEND