The Holloways
@ Leeds Metropolitan University

An entertaining start to the evening with the theatrical cabaret of Kid Harpoon. Like Razorlight play the Sensational Alex Harvey Band songbook, this was a strange set with a replacement singer (the normal one was poorly). They did a purely fab rockabilly cover of Laughing Lenny Cohen’s First We Take Manhattan. Then The Wombats made a very good attempt at out-energising the Holloways. Looks like the headliners wanted us to have abig night out and set themselves a challenge.

The lights dim and the theme tune to Knightrider comes over the PA to announce the band’s arrival. I’ve enjoyed The Holloways live three times before and the cheeky chaps persona makes for a fun night out. They are a band that seem to enjoy themselves. Tonight, a bit less so – Bryn (on bass) has fallen downstairs and bruised his ribs, making playing painful. So there’s less of the relaxed wandering around to share jokes. He stares stoically ahead.

Rob had been boasting of the new flash lighting system – sadly it was used to coat the stage in dark reds and blues for the first three songs – yeah, the ones the photographers were using for their snaps. Alfie engages the audience with memories of living here and his favourite chip shops (though his claim for The Magpie in Morley has to be partisan…). Rob grins and looks, as always, as if he’s a bit surprised to be up there playing. That flavour carries through the songs – a sense of knowing how privileged they are to be well and happy. He whips out the fiddle and plays Two Left Feet as the lights come up to happy yellows to reveal the backdrop of weather symbols. Its succeeded by a new one – Cool Down. Rob tries to get people joining in on the chorus.

Alfie is still a gawky cool jovial frontman, clad in vest and cloth cap. Smiling, bopping, wandering left and right to exchange looks with Rob or Bryn as the crowd chucks a huge inflatable around that someone had brought in. The songs are mostly the ones you know from ‘So This Is Great Britain?’ – a mixture of optimism, happiness, social comment and a surprisingly moral streak down the middle. “This one’s for the little shits” satys Alfie, introducing Nothing For The Kids, with its condemnation of the ASBO generation. The songs, after many tours, have a speedy, sharper attack than they used to – a bit more indie. There’s less skank and less bounce, more verve. They mix in a new song then play Most Lonely Face before Alfie reminisces about gigs from a while back in Leeds – their Vine gig, the Cockpit dates. The audience mouths the lyrics and point declamatory fingers – its less boppy than previous outings with less clusters of girls handbag dancing. The gig is nearly full despite being up in competition with The Maccabees across town tonight. “I can’t get used to you not dancing”, Alfie tells Bryn. Maybe that accounts for the slight lack of energy but I put the blame on a slight drift from dancier beats – energy is more than pace.

Why Should I Remind Myself has been arranged into a rocking bouncing monster – the fancy lights help. Generator gets a big build up and it’s lovely true-because-it’s-simplistic lyric is clear and belies it’s written-at-school origins. Alfie tells us the last LMU gig was their best ever and I remember the buzz and them appearing after most had left to throw fruit at the audience, shouting about 5 a day. This gig ends with the same happy walk-off music – Python’s Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life and shows The Holloways still writing new stuff and changing – I just don’t want them to become too uniform in their drift to the indie mainstream.

Ross McGibbon