The Open : Wolverhampton Little Civic

They're bizarre, they're British, they're brilliant...

Salvador Dali never visited Wolverhampton, but on tonight’s evidence, he’d surely approve. On arrival at the Little Civic it is clear from the puzzled looks on the faces of the bouncers that [a]The Open[/a] are in residence. In the dressing room a print of Van Goghs’ ‘Sunflowers’ and another from Picasso’s Cubist period hang on the walls. The whiff of a cheroot hangs in the air. The band, strewn across sofas or mulling over crosswords, cultivate the mood of a surrealist gentleman’s club. [a]Jet[/a] at the Beer Barrell, Wollongong, it ain’t.

Tonight, it transpires, is the second date of a tour inspired by Victorian author Alfred Watkins’ book ‘The Old Straight Track’, which explains that the British Isles are covered with prehistoric pathways, all in direct alignment with the planets.

“You should have been there last night,” grins Steven Bayley by way of introduction. “It was fuckin’ amazing.”

This evening [a]The Open[/a] go one better. If, in the wake of their recent NME photo shoot at the Long Man of Wilmington chalk hill figure, it’s clear [a]The Open[/a] are the team to fear should they ever show up at your local indie pub quiz, they are also exhibiting a confidence and knack for melody which marks them ahead of all their peers bar the similarly arty [a]Franz Ferdinand[/a].

Plus, if the global rock revolution of the last two years has ramped up the indie-thrill factor, tonight [a]The Open[/a] remind us that groups from closer to home can be even more intoxicating. Dressed all in black, they bristle with an intensity only possible having formed in Birkenhead, via Walsall.

Dispensing with a fearsome ‘Bring It Down’, Jon Winter (black shirt, bedraggled black locks) launches into a stratospheric guitar barrage that forces the crowd – sensing some strangely supernatural forces at work – to move involuntarily.

Amid the cacophony of sky-rocketing guitars and space-station synths stands Steve. Twitching, beseeching and – given the chance – snarling at anyone who appears not to be paying attention, he is both the history teacher from Hell and the most charismatic frontman in the class of 2004.

Following the melodic onslaught of ‘Lost’, the band break into ‘Forgotten’. With its acidic hookline “How does it feel to be forgotten?” it is perfect proof of [a]The Open[/a]’s capacity to write bittersweet symphonies at will. And if recent Floyd-meets-Teardrop Explodes single ‘Close My Eyes’ wasn’t proof enough of [a]The Open[/a]’s knack of reaching far beyond the standard rock’n’roll template, then the dual onslaught during ‘Never Enough’ and ‘Forgotten’ means no-one hear will hear anything else but high-pitched whistling for the next week anyway.

“Tired of people who don’t understand”, sighs Steve as the venue frugs itself into a state of primitive abandon during new single ‘Just Wanna Live’ before a clearly ironic ‘Can You Hear’.

Steve was right. You should have been there last night… as well.

Paul Moody