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Live review: The Automatic

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"Liverpool!” cries The Automatic’s Rob Hawkins. “It’s been fucking ages since we’ve been here!” To be precise, it’s been almost a year and a half. The Automatic played two shows in this city at the end of 2008: one as part of MTV’s Gonzo tour, and the other as a headline band. Barely anyone turned up to either, and both were apathetic and dreadful. But – what’s this now? It’s March 2010 and there’s a sizeable, excitable crowd of faces here to see them. Word seems to have got out that The Automatic, rather than shuffling quietly off into two-album-band oblivion, have rediscovered their taste for this making-music lark, released an impressive third record on their own label and are turning in performances full of renewed passion.

Opening with recent single ‘Interstate’, The Automatic set the tone for what follows, flooding the room with rich, powerful guitars and lush three-part vocal harmonies. Never have they sounded this polished and alive with possibilities – former Yourcodenameis:milo man Paul Mullen now looks fully settled in and integral to the band’s dynamic, pushing them forward with complex riffs, nutty showmanship and a much-needed injection of aggression. The opening to ‘Can I Take You Home’ is enormous, and it is Mullen who drives the furious outros to ‘This Is A Fix’, ‘Monster’ (while wearing a creepy old man mask) and ‘Steve McQueen’ (while wearing a horse head). But it’s not just him. All of a sudden, The Automatic look and sound like a unit, playing for each other and playing their hearts out. The old hits still get the biggest reaction, and they still enjoy playing them, but this is a band with a new-found vigour and a unified vision. They look happy, and it’s infectious, translating into a hugely impressive, enjoyable show that puts smiles on people’s faces. And surely that’s the whole point, right?

Mike Haydock

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