The Holloways
@ Leeds Met

The lads choose to kick off with the album title track – ‘So This Is Great Britain’ – on a dark-red lit stage. It’s a miserable song, full of cynicism and moaning. Whereas the rest of the canon is life-affirming and joyous, making this a poor introduction. Songs like ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ have a groove and natural smile that makes the gaggle of girls below me slap high fives and do the handbag dance. The lads banter and tease in a quiet way. They strike me as a bit under the weather, maybe it is the not-full venue (rather a big one for them) and the lack of press attention – only Vanguard was in the photo-pit – the rest of Leeds was looking for the next big thing at the Maccabbees gig across town. And that’s a shame – The Holloways have a happy, bouncy and generally coherent sound and world-view. They combine the social commentary of the Artic Monkeys with a social change agenda of ‘why can’t we all be nice to each other’. Alfie, lead singer, is over by the fiddle and a long way from his customary foil on bass, leading to less horsing around compared to the last couple of times I’ve seen the band. They seem a bit more note-perfect and maybe having to listen a bit less hard to each other.

They spot me in the pit and remember me telling them they don’t play Leeds enough. That had pee’d Alfie off because he was born in Leeds so he points out to the crowd that they played here more than anywhere else last year – and I saw them 3 times, so I guess he’s right.

Then a bum note – the sad prossie song, Most Lonely Face, that always seems a bit Artics in tone, but they mean it and the conviction shows through, albeit patronising. I remember, as they appear, how many great songs there are – Generator, Fit For A Fortnight, Two Left Feet, etc. each gets a jig going in the crowd. The drums keep up a steady bounce and the bass and rhythm guitar are more practised – it’s a shame as they seem to lose a little intimacy and spontaneity. I remember the guitar / fiddle player wandering round the dressing room last year, attached to his guitar, playing constantly. He was gangly and awkward then, far more confident now in his novelty sunglasses. Generator, when it comes, is the closer and the diametrical opposite of the opener – a song about life as a party. The simplistic lyric is heartfelt; “at least you don’t live in poverty”.

The three song encore ends with F*ck Ups; “The f*cked up f*ckers are f*cking me up”. The bassist disappears over the crowd and Alfie saunters over to pick up and play the bass. A moment later it’s over. The band had walked on stage to Joe Meek’s fairground classic: ‘Telstar’. Now they leave to The Life Of Brian’s ‘Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life’ triggering a singalong. The band reappear on the balcony to throw the rider of chocolate and oranges to those left and lead the singing. They seem to have been having a better time than they let on (maybe nerves at bigger venues?). Then Boys Town Gang come on the PA with the lovely smooth ‘Can’t Take My Eyes off You’. All good joyful stuff.

Ross McGibbon