As The Lathums‘ frontman Alex Moore gazes out upon the forest of held-aloft phone-torches twinkling to the campfire singalong of ‘I’ll Never Forget The Time I Spent With You’, he looks visibly overcome. “This is enough to make a real man cry,” he observes.
You can forgive him for sounding emotional: this sold-out semi-homecoming (upgraded to a larger 3,500-capacity venue due to demand) is the latest landmark in an incredible year for the Wigan band. The last 12 months has already seen their James Skelly-produced debut album ‘How Beautiful Life Can Be’ usurp Drake from the top of the Top 40 in September, play to 5,000 people in Liverpool’s Selfon Park, help save their local team Wigan Athletic (who beat Bolton Wanders in the derby today – something he shouts out onstage) and gain plaudits from Paul Weller, Elton John and Tim Burgess.
Appropriately “suited and booted for the special occasion”, as Moore puts it, the quartet stride on to ‘Caravan of Love’ by The Housemartins, and The Lathums traffic in the same effervescent jangle-pop as Paul Heaton’s 1980s knitwear-enthusiasts. Rapturously greeted by outsized ‘THE LATHUMS’-flags and terrace chants, they’re a quintessential people’s band and bring to mind the ramshackle mid-’00s retro-gold rush of unpretentiously direct guitar-indie anthems from Arctic Monkeys, The Courteeners and The Libertines.
Once described by their friends as resembling “The Inbetweeners in a Shane Meadows film,” they feel like the kind of accessible group that a 15-year-old would see onstage and think, “I could do that”, while remaining timeless enough to appeal to the myriad dads in the crowd.
Kicking off with ‘Fight On’, powered by Scott Concepcion’s spindly Johnny Marr-style guitar riffs, each song is treated like an encore, as a friendly-fire of tossed plastic pints soar through the air and lads in Lathums-branded bucket hats clamber onto each others’ shoulders. A run of buoyant heart-on-sleeve indie-pop is only broken by a three-song section where Moore, solo and blinded by a spotlight, marshals spine-tingling acoustic sing-a-longs to ‘How Beautiful Life Can Be’ (co-written by his mother), ‘I’ll Never Forget The Time I Spent With You’ and ‘All My Life’, awash with melody and us-against-the-world mate-hugging.
“You all sing like angels,” he praises. He’s rejoined by the rest of the outfit – completed by bassist Johnny Cunliffe and drummer Ryan Durrans – for the Smiths disco of ‘Circles of Faith’, while fans deafeningly sing every single word of unreleased banger ‘Sad Face Baby’ (which boasts a bassline worthy of New Order’s Peter Hook) back at them, despite it only being available as grainy YouTube footage.
The winningly ska-influnced ‘I See Your Ghost’ feels like the revenge of landfill indie (the haughtily sneering term invented for 2000s guitar bands that committed the cardinal broadsheet and tastemaker sins of being regional and working-class) after years of snobbish dismissal, and a blizzard of gold ticker-tape heralds ‘The Redemption of Sonic Beauty’ and ‘Artificial Screens’. The latter is a protest against smart-phones – although the irony tonight is the gig is so packed that the only way for anybody near the back to see anything onstage is by pointing their screens up like a periscope and watching through them.
Were it not for the couple in front of me viciously arguing over how to pronounce their name (case for the divorce prosecution: it’s La-thums, not Lay-thums), you could easily forget how swift their ascent has been. As Moore soaks up the adulation and beams, “I wake up every day happy now thanks to you,” you can’t help but agree with the approving football chants of “Up The Lathums!”
The Lathums played:
‘I Won’t Lie’
‘I’ll Get By’
‘Oh My Love’
‘The Great Escape’
‘I Know That Much’
‘This Place O’Yours’
‘How Beautiful Life Can Be’
‘I’ll Never Forget The Time I Spent With You’
‘All My Life’
‘Circles of Faith’
‘Sad Face Baby’
‘It Won’t Take Long’
‘I See Your Ghost’
‘The Redemption Of Sonic Beauty’