Harry Radford at The Joiners, Southampton (08/09/2013)

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Harry Radford, clean vocalist of scottish post-hardcore band Yashin recently released a solo EP entitled Pressure Makes Diamonds, exploring a far less heavy sound than that of Yashin. It’s this EP which Harry and his band are currently touring the UK with and tonight his solo tour rolls into a Joiners which is not quite filled to capacity. As 90% of the crowd are here because they are hardcore fans of Harry’s ‘day job’ Yashin, it looks like it’s going to be an uphill struggle to convince them of the merits of his lighter, more poppy solo output.

First up tonight are local Southampton boys DEAD, and you might not have heard their name before, but if you’ve been to a concert or small festival in the local area at any point in the past year, you’ve probably heard them. They’re tireless workers and have supported a number of the rock acts that have rolled through Hampshire recently. They’re one of those bands that just seem to get better everytime you see them and tonight, they’re rather good. Their energetic and fun punk rock gets a fantastic crowd reception, which is unusual for an opening band, but very well deserved in this case. The band seems thoroughly at home in the intimate setting of the Joiners, and songs such as ‘A Jazz Song’ and ‘Verona’ go down an absolute treat with tonight’s crowd, many of whom even know the words.

Main support act Hill Valley High are, unfortunately, not quite as impressive. Their first struggle comes with the crowd, whose post-DEAD buzz has most assuredly worn off and who now just seem to be sulking. Hill Valley High make pretty standard party rock, not too light, not too heavy. It’s music that really needs a good atmosphere to come into its own, or it sounds a bit uninspiring. It’s pretty hard to get a party started in a venue that’s basically arctic in temperature, with an almost entirely static crowd who seem hellbent on completely ignoring the band on stage. Things get better towards the end of Hill Valley High’s set, as they hand out glowsticks to the crowd to wave (note to struggling support bands: when in doubt, give out freebies). It’s an inspired idea and perks everything up considerably. Combined with their natural charm and good humour in the face of audience indifference means Hill Valley High can just about leave the stage with their dignity intact.

Finally, the venue is plunged into darkness as the the man of the hour comes to join his band on stage, heralded by a series of piercing, bordering on hysterical, screams from the mostly female crowd. No one in the venue is left in any doubt: Harry Radford has arrived. As the first song kicks in the crowd’s desperate enthusiasm dips somewhat as the vocals on the sound system are muffled, which is a bit of an atmosphere spoiler. However, the situation is soon rectified and the crowd are soon singing along and dancing with obvious joy. Harry is certainly a charismatic frontman and he has excellent chemistry with his band, making this feel like a real group effort rather than the ego-trip it could have been in the hands of less talented performers. As for the songs themselves, they’re excellent when performed live, and, mostly stripped of their electronic bell and whistles, are proper rock songs. They’re certainly capable of converting even the most hardened Yashin fan in the audience tonight, and the happy crowd are testament to this. It’s hard to pick a single highlight from a show this entertaining, but new song ‘I Need My Fix’ and superlative ballad ‘Gallery‘ are very different, but both rather brilliant in their own way. Even an acoustic cover of Bruno Mars’ ‘Just The Way You Are’ is rather lovely, as opposed to the cheese-fest it could so easily have been. As the show finishes up with first single ‘Bite The Bullet‘ the crowd have clearly been utterly won over, with any traces of doubt thoroughly expunged. And to answer the inevitable question, yes, this was just as good live show as Yashin have ever put on. In fact, whisper it, it might even have been a bit better.

Photograph courtesy of Heather Ghanouni

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