Tom Clarke surveys the Northamptonshire town of Corby. More precisely, he surveys the chippy, Chinese takeaway, off-licence and the swelling crowd that’s gathering outside the Kingfisher pub. Said crowd is growing increasingly bewildered at the megaton speakers that are being loaded inside it. He shakes his head.“People forget that all this exists,” he says. “People forget that north of Watford there’s a country! There’s a country with people that have jobs, or don’t have jobs, or have families with kids and buy music and buy newspapers and watch TV. They’re forgetting that there’s a whole country called England out there, and it’s an amazing place.”This is only half true. For one, most people in this country do actually live north of Watford.
And what’s happened to places like this isn’t actually ‘amazing’ at all. The Enemy got big romanticising a forgotten Britain, but it’s all looking far from rosy these days. Still, this five-date tour of smaller towns is a noble endeavour, born from a conversation driving through our noble land on the bus. The Enemy decided they wanted to eschew the high-jump taken by most bands to venues they can’t hope to fill and go back to the people and places that put them where they are. Yes, when their gigantic second (and awfully named) record ‘Music For The People’ drops in spring they’re going to play the big venues as well.
But for now they’ve been recruiting mobile numbers from their fanclub and tipping them off about 100-capacity locations where they’ll be gigging as guerrilla-style as you can with a sound system that takes a lorry to transport it.It’d all gone swimmingly as well, until Tom got overexcited with his new motorbike, drove 400 miles in 10 hours and left his hand paralysed with RSI for last night’s show in York. Instead of playing, they got back to their hotel, phoned every person up personally, got them down to the venue, played them the album and bought every single one of them a drink. Music for the people indeed.
As Coventry was the centre of the motoring industry, Corby was the equivalent for steelwork; many of the townspeople are descended from Scots who moved down to work in more hopeful times. The sniffer-dogs that patrol the Kingfisher as night falls signal that police are expecting a ruck, and the audience look to be whipped up for the same. But it’s a loving ruck all the same. When The Enemy finally arrive, the thundering squall of ‘It’s Not OK’ shakes the pub (a cousin of Brian Potter’s Phoenix Club if ever we saw one) to the point of near-collapse. It was never in doubt that this was a ferocious and soulful live band, and there’s a whiff of structural damage in the air, but Tom, Andy and Liam have rarely sounded more alive. There’s just two newies in the 30-minute set and they’re so aimed at the stadiums the Kingfisher can scarcely contain them: certainly not the single ‘No Time For Tears’, a gigantic claws-out Sabbath-tribute of a thing. It’s the superlative shoutalong ‘Sing When You’re In Love, Sing When You’re Out Of Love’ that’s going to prove their real winning ticket.
And as Tom dedicates the final ‘You’re Not Alone’ to the redundant heavy-industry workers, it’s clear that The Enemy’s message of keeping your chin up through sour times is only going to be more prescient given what’s happened since they first broke out. What’s not yet clear is whether this is what people want from rock’n’roll at this point, or whether it should – as Eagles Of Death Metal would say – make you forget your job, whether you’ve got one or not. If they’ve judged the mood right, though, The Enemy are about to have one brilliant recession.