When Leah Fay mentioned Gord Downie from The Tragically Hip, everything suddenly fell into place. Cult band to the whole of Canada, they mean something special to most, if not all, Canadian artists, and July Talk are no exception. After watching a few Tragically Hip videos, you could sense that same presence in Peter and Leah’s performances as in Downie’s before them, and that same passion and connection that exudes from July Talk are no different to their legendary forebears.
The Canadian band formed back in 2012 and are huge hits in their homeland and in the US. The privilege is still being able to see them at such intimate gigs here in the UK as their overseas popularity steadily grows in momentum, and in tandem with their dedication to live performance. Manchester Sound Control wasn’t packed but passionately filled, and space near the stage was in high demand.
The energetic Indie punk band Blackwaters, hailing from Guilford, warmed up the stage, playing newest single ‘Jarr’ed Up Generation’ in loud and uninterrupted madness, among others.
The magnetic pull of July Talk 5-piece feels so surreal because they aren’t about performing at a crowd, but performing with the crowd. But you are in awe of the heady atmosphere they help cultivate anyway, coveting the enthusiasm of the night and grabbing it firmly by the horns, or by the balls, if we’re speaking in July Talk fellating microphone terms. From a kumbayah trance sat on the floor while Leah lounged below her band mates; to the crowd singing back up to ‘Guns + Ammunition’ helped along by bassist Josh; to mid-performance shot drinking during ‘The Garden’, they were alive and reliably wild, as with every performance they give. The whole band just did what they have always done, giving everything to the crowds and just vying for the crowds to give back.
For any other band, the column standing in red up on the stage would be a nuisance, but to Leah and July Talk, it was a prop to perform with, reacting and engaging with the space in an irresistible spectacle.
While ‘Gentleman’ and ‘Picturing Love’ stuck out especially, each song gave as good as it got, and the band finished with an emotional rendition of ‘My Neck’, a song that hadn’t made it out onto any of the UK releases.
Notably, ‘Touch’ grew and grew to a mighty and mature crescendo as the band played around their title track off the new album, released just last Friday, and even after they had done a two or three song encore, the crowd could have taken more, if not for the exhausted performers on stage. They had the crowd going, regardless of tempo or audience familiarity with the songs.
Having played Southampton before, fingers crossed they come by next spring. They were magnificent, and this diverse and developing family that July Talk are at the centre of, both in Canada and internationally, is fully deserved and warranted. They may just be following in The Tragically Hip’s footsteps to legendary status, if in a more alternative and indie landscape.