Indie rock band The Crookes played Southampton’s Lennons on Saturday night, one of their last UK gigs (their first date was 15th April) before they head to Europe, having just released third album Soapbox on ‘Fierce Panda Records’ on 14th April. Fellow Sheffield lads and tour buddies High Hazels joined them as support act.
The gig was much later than I’m are used to, as local support The Harlequin pulled out due to illness and being a club night, stage times remained the same (High Hazels were on at 10.45pm). However, the incense burning on the stage and designated DJ did a good job setting the right mood and getting the crowd hyped about the upcoming acts. Having been a vague follower of both artists, I was really looking forward to seeing them both live.
With dress code smart casual, High Hazels have got the image right and immediately kicking off with a song that I couldn’t help but imagine being played in a roofless car in the middle of summer. With melodic guitar sounds and vocals not dissimilar to bands like The Heartbreaks, The Shins and dare I say it The Smiths, the band nevertheless have got a very pleasantly unique sound. Personal favourite tracks played included ‘French Rue‘ and recently released debut single ‘Hearts Are Breaking’. An acoustic track in the mix was reminiscent of Alex Turner’s soundtrack for the film Submarine. I overheard one audience member state “I think that they want to be ‘The Beatles’ too much though. Stick it out and they may have something”. I don’t agree entirely with the first remark, but certainly if they carry on they most certainly will have something. Attractive and charming lead singer James Lesley isn’t half bad as a lyricist, and with the perfect amount of songs and stage chat, the band captured the growing audience’s attention and delivered a solid set.
After much adjusting of gear on stage by the band members, The Crookes were up with a decent crowd gathered. Good strong vocals from charismatic frontman and bassist George Waite certainly drew my attention; he clicked his fingers, swung his bass and screwed up his face in concentration as he sang. At times his voice took on aspects of Orlando Weeks from The Maccabees, but it’s in fact more soulful than that. Lead guitarist Tom Dakin played skilful floating riffs, but I couldn’t help but feel the constant gum-chewing (surely the flavour had gone before he’d even got on stage!) and often bored expression of rhythm guitarist Daniel Hopewell was slightly off-putting. At times he did look like he was of course enjoying himself, but never for very long – maybe being a rhythm guitarist can be boring at times, or maybe it’s just that his image is moody and dark! There were a few very excitable fans at the front, with many others belting out lyrics to the delight of lead singer George, declaring he had “been moved”. Notable crowd pleasers included ‘Backstreet Lovers’, ‘Yes, Yes, Yes, We Are Magicians‘ and ‘Maybe In The Dark‘. The energy that came through with finisher ‘Afterglow’ does not occur nearly enough, so more songs with the same upbeat style would have been welcome.
Both bands delivered tight and quality sets, and were definitely worth going along to see play. I wish them all the best for the upcoming festival season.