Where better to showcase that difficult second album than a pub firmly on home turf?...The Rainbow, Birmingham, Friday, May 22
Twenty-five minutes walk from New Street Station, into the wall-crumblingly run-down Digbeth area, through the NHS glasses-thick windows, lies The Rainbow.Home to an increasing number of club
nights and gigs, it retains the essence of a great British pub. The beer is throat-icingly cold. The chunky spread of vomit we step over to get to the back room is diligently mopped up by the time we slip back through to the gents. And out the back, opposite support act Exit Calm’s yawn-in-heaven Verve rip-off guitar squall, a slab of kebab meat gently twirls, the heating grills causing it to sweat dribble-drips of lamb fat and lend a pleasant warmth to the back of the heads of those stood at the rear. Here tonight, in front of a crowd boasting more bald heads than a Harry Hill convention, The Twang mark their comeback with a hometown show.
In July Phil Etheridge and co will release their second album, ‘Jewellery Quarter’, the first fruits of which they have been debuting
at three low-key gigs, tonight being the last. Letting the new songs loose has brought up a few goose pimples. “My heart was beating
so fucking faaaaast, man,” second-singer Martin Saunders will pant to NME straight after the show. But when he and his Brummie bandmates bounce on to the stage, it’s clear that in the short walk from the dressing room cell to the rickety stage, fears have been shafted out of the way by vein-bursts of pure adrenaline.
“Is this Birmingham? Then let’s have a little party!” energy-ball Etheridge bellows, leaning into the front row while Saunders does bird flaps of encouragement to the crowd, gesturing with joy like a Midlands Mr Motivator. Combined with guitarist Stu Hartland’s euphoric glow-bursts to serve up opener ‘Wide Awake’, it’s enough to get the crowd sending pint contents into the air like booze-spurting geysers.
But The Twang aren’t here to get by on tap-ins tonight, duly dispensing with older fan favourites ‘Ice Cream Sundae’, ‘Push The Ghosts’ and their best song, the heart-bursting tenderness/euphoria-straddler ‘Either Way’ before the show gets to pint-refill point. ‘Back Where We Started’ is the first ‘Jewellery…’ cut we hear – a decent, breezingly baggy effort that gets by in the ‘Wide Awake’ slipstream, while ‘Live The Life’’s moody bass’n’string presses pass muster without quite clenching fists for pumping. ‘Got No Interest’’s Smithsy breeze is a bit more, well, interesting, and lead single ‘Barney Rubble’ gets by on Etheridge’s endearingly cracked vocals despite having the same drum pattern as Simply Red’s ‘Fairground’. ‘Encouraging Sign’, however, belies its own moniker by not having half enough bluster to lift it above knee-level despite its sweet acoustic-strum chorus.
But the best new song played tonight may well be ‘Another Bus’, a slow song boasting one of Hartland’s most head-bobbingly misty riffs to date, although the overall effect is somewhat lost on the Friday night jolly boys down the front who, eyes darting as they follow Etheridge and Saunders leaping around in a frenzy of man-sweat, don’t seem too concerned that their favourite band have gone, well, a tad MOR. Especially when ‘The Neighbour’ induces floor-crumpling pogo-ing – hopefully due to its breeze-bouncy guitar plings rather than the fact that it’s about threatening to duff in the dude next door.It’s a riot, then one song later the lads swagger off to encore-closer ‘Cloudy Room’, cab it to a boozer five clicks away and consolidate their comeback week with friends and beers. The atmosphere is pleasantly relaxed rather then chum-huggingly celebratory. It might be Peronis and pittas rather than champagne and caviar for The Twang. But for now the bar’s still open.