Sixstarhotel, Mojo Fury, Napoleon
Practically no advertising, there's football on the TV, its cold and miserable outside and the economy is in the doldrums. It wouldn't have been surprising to find nobody here. Instead, the old venue is pleasantly packed, and we've got an early contender for gig of the year.
Napoleon, once a bloke with short-man syndrome who tried to conquer Europe, is now also a very useful band. ï¿½You Don't Belong Here' quickly establishes their plans for invading our hearts, a beefed up Bon Iver by way of early Radiohead guitars. ï¿½Wonder' is frantic and desperate, and ï¿½Holding Onto Hope' shows they have an ear for a commercial hook without seeming to search for it deliberately. Just no-one suggest they should cover Abba.
Mojo Fury could cover Abba and get away with it. They don't, but as possessors of arguably the most anticipated local album of the year, they don't have to. Digging back to their first ever practice session for their opener, it's clear that the quality has been there from day 1. Creating their own slightly mad strange brew of grunge, art, rock, and electronica, it's all bound by a sense of something special and alchemical going on. Really, it's just a case of waiting to see what limits they've set themselves, and by how much they exceed them.
Sixstarhotel therefore have a lot to live up to by the time they take the stage. ï¿½Indigo', with its Arcade Fire gone more delusional rock stylings, is a more than decent response to the friendly gauntlet thrown down. Exhibiting a roundedness and completeness to their sound, an intelligence to the pop going on, ï¿½Left Alone' is soft but solid, hinting at Modest Mouse or Cold War Kids. The rush comes in with the layers of guitars and kitchen sinks thrown at us in ï¿½Don't Wake Me', a song with scale and space in it, whilst ï¿½Tell Me You're Sorry' goes even further down that road, creating and filling emotional space enough for far bigger venues.
Coming back for an encore, they change tack, drawing back as ï¿½Fell Away' creates an echoing emptiness as they leave the stage; a gap you didn't know existed having been created, filled, and then drained.