Live Review: Chapel Club

The Leadmill, Sheffield, 5th February

The band have expanded their horizons, but they’re still struggling to match their ambitions

[a]Chapel Club[/a] are slowly, surely becoming the big deal they’ve threatened – wanted – to be, and tonight their popularity in the Steel City extends to not one but two live engagements: both the first (played acoustic in city centre bar The Bowery), and the second, in the smaller of The Leadmill’s two rooms, are close to heaving, and there’s a feeling at both that we’re watching a band who will go on to get properly, stupidly big this year.

It’s a pity, then, that their upwards career trajectory seems to be based on the relative quality of just a handful of the songs we hear tonight – and the majority of their electric set passes us by in a delay-tastic Bunnymen-lite haze. If [a]Joy Division[/a] had been given access to some Line 6 pedals, they might have ended up sounding like this – but if that had been the case, they almost certainly wouldn’t have spawned the army of soundalikes we’re still trying to rid the airwaves of.

Come in [a]White Lies[/a], your time is up. Speaking of whom, CC singer Lewis Bowman certainly has a touch of the Harry McVeighs about him; his pronounced intonations are positively loaded with gravitas, even when pondering such complex existential crises as, “O maybe I should settle down to a quiet life/Or maybe I should fuck around with someone’s wife”. It’s hardly children starving in Africa, now, is it? There are fleeting moments that deliver more impact but, ironically enough, it’s when they cast their pretensions aside – as on ‘All The Eastern Girls’, a simple, rollicking pop-rocker that also thrives when rendered acoustically – that they’re capable of making the sort of connection they seem to be striving for.

Opening with fellow biggie ‘Surfacing’ is certainly an audacious move, but given the lack of clout in the middle of the evening it’s not one that benefits the set; they’ll struggle to write a better song, but then so would a lot of bands. Later, a lack of planning leaves the scarcely demanded encore down to a choice of one song (“Um, we don’t actually have any others,” admits Bowman, sheepishly), and the eight-minute-long post-rock snoozathon ‘Widows’ succeeds in halving the already thinning crowd. They’ve certainly got the belief and the bluster, now [a]Chapel Club[/a] just need some more songs.

Rob Webb