Tuesday, 9 February 2010

599 HOT HOT HEAT, Franz Ferdinand, Vue, Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms, Tuesday 19 August 2003

Rachel's and my Reading Festival warm-up schedule continues apace (well, bands do Reading warm-up gigs, so why can't we?) with the second of 3 scheduled gigs designed to get us in the Fest mindset. This one, for hotly (ouch) tipped newcomers Hot Hot Heat, came about simply due to big fan Rachel's desire not to see them, "do a Libertines," at Reading, and disappoint mightily with a technically beset performance, as the similarly hotly tipped Libs did a couple of years back. Covering all bases - fine by me! So we hit the road at 6.30 and passed the massive queue for this sell out gig, on our way to park, amazingly, just round the corner. Obviously the queuing lot got lifts!

Drinkies before first band on, San Francisco's Vue, at 8.30. They were good in a Doors-ish, West Coast rhythm and driving blues kind of way, also recalling You Am I in their occasional raw and dirty raunchiness. However none of their material really made more than a mildly pleasant impression, and their vocalist, while procuring the moves of a young Jim Morrison, obviously didn't pick up on the stage presence. I then noticed, between bands, that standing behind us in the crowd was none other than Fulham boss Chris Coleman - obviously scouting for that much-needed new dynamic frontman!

Intriguing Scottish combo Franz Ferdinand were next up, and right royally entertained with a mix of, ooh, all sorts of weird late 70's New Wave references. The staccato, choppy chord changes of XTC and Wire, the choral vocals of a young David Byrne, or in parts (whisper it) Big Dipper's Bill Goffrier, from the horribly-haired vocalist, some British Sea Power style quirkiness, and even a bassline nicked wholesale from the Undertones' classic "Teenage Kicks". It was all chucked in there, into a melting pot of intelligence which stayed just about on the right side of clever-dickiness. I thoroughly enjoyed their set, which climaxed with a rambunctious number which had the vocalist screaming, "Ich heisse Herr Super-Fantastisch!".

The place was now full and getting hot hot hot for the entrance of Hot Hot Heat, just after 10.15. They joined us, all piles of tousled hair and black drainpipes, bursting into a number from their "Knock Knock Knock" EP. Steve Banks, their painfully young-looking and impressively energetic vocalist, was the focal point, with his yelping, Robert Smith-like vocal delivery, although the whole band delivered a fine, spunky and totally fun performance. Very derivative of early XTC themselves they may be, but Hot Hot Heat's material is upbeat, optimistic, clever without being po-faced, and irresistibly infectious. I surprised myself by singing along to almost every number, from the early "Oh Goddammit", through to set closer, the excellent keyboard-propelled anthem that is "Bandages".

This set was as fun, smart and snappy as this young and talented band themselves are, and made this the most "fun" gig since, ooh, Cheap Trick earlier this year. Oh, and in Banks, I think Chris Coleman might have found the dynamic frontman he was looking for!

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