LIVE: Broken Hands @ The Eagle Inn
Amongst the endless forests of new flats, in that droplet of Victorian red-bricked and red-blooded Salford known as The Eagle Inn, Kentish rockers Broken Hands came back. And with a bang they came, as well as a couple of new singles out on Atlantic, and a new album tantalizingly just around the corner.
Before we get to them, Salford was treated to a set from local boys Cleargreen. They are a proper parka-touting Manc rock band. Lead singer Ali Staley appears to have pinched Roger Daltrey’s luxurious mop. Staley may not quite have the pipes of Roger but this doesn’t matter much as Cleargreen have some nice tunes. In ‘People’, they carry on the fine Mancunian tradition of nabbing glam riffs and sending them to the gym for six months to beef out. The set hops into bright and brash motorway rock and roll, that could have been on commercial radio in the height of July. They go for this best in latest single ‘Gone’. There is more than a hint of the nineties in Cleargreen, and if by chance this passes anyone by, Clint Boon pops up for a cameo in the rather cinematic video for ‘Gone’ because well, why not?
Sandwiched in between the first half of these shirt-off summer tunes and the second half of northern wet weather psychedelia is an interesting cover of Jorja Smith’s ‘Blue Lights’. Whilst the song drops some of its sprawl in favor of racing guitars, it does retain emphatic bars in the verses courtesy of bass player and cagoule aficionado Liam McIver. The cornerstone of Cleargreen’s set and deserving of a special mention is drummer Mike Wilcock. Truly a baby-faced assassin, he is an ice cold figure behind the kit with chops that seem far beyond the years that his ID-please look appears to give away. Cleargreen are definitely worth a watch.
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After a short break in which to admire the dimly lit beauty of The Eagle Inn, along came Broken Hands. The band has been away from the stage for, well how long? There was some dispute between Dale Norton and the audience as to how long exactly but it’s a good couple of years. In that time they’ve been doing a few legal bits (signing to an American major label is COMPLICATED) and more importantly, doing lots and lots of writing. And so there we were on a damp Monday, a little unsure as to how it was all going to go down. We should have known. Broken Hands if ever they had a little dust and rust from the lack of live shows had already shaken it into the stratosphere before they turned out here. They are a class act, hurtling through the first couple of tunes in a daze of flashing lights and Blitzkrieg bass lines courtesy of Thomas Ford, looking a little like ‘All Things Must Pass’ era George Harrison.
There seemed to be no one who enjoyed all this fuzzy fanfare quite like Dale, who slalomed and skanked about the front of the Eagle‘s little stage, the swoop of his hair like an extra set of limbs as if there were a giant garage rock spider monkey conducting the band. Broken Hands seem genuinely excited to be playing, which creates a cracking atmosphere, and were genuinely appreciative of the reception the songs from the old album receive, especially in title track ‘Turbulence’ which was straight back at the band from sections. It was all smiles!
The band played quite a few new songs too! Some rather atmospheric and almost Suede-esque vocals in the new tracks showed an expansion to the songwriting from the band. The new EP ‘Split in Two / Friends House’ is ballsy and direct, more of a British sound to it than in parts of ‘Turbulence’, however, both tracks really do feel like Broken Hands songs. They have that heavy-yet-sexy signature on them, like Orson Welles in his prime. This is very much the case with ‘Split in Two’ where everything in the song is bouncing off that colossal riff. ‘Friends House’, on the other hand, is a cascading shoe gaze affair. This again hints at a development from the first album but has the same sardonic tone of tracks like ‘Meteor’.
Speaking of good old ‘Meteor’, a fan favorite, the song went down so well at The Eagle Inn that it did indeed set all the fire alarms off. This was of no matter to Broken Hands, who seemed spurred on by this screeching interruption as if they felt the need to keep time with the endless ring. It was no more a hindrance to the audience, who were prepared to risk fire and possibly brimstone to watch a terrific set.