Live: Broken Hands, The Roundhouse (supporting Band Of Skulls), 06/03/12
Somehow overcoming a seemingly-endless army of cockney ticket touts (plus one cockney ticket tout infant, who if we understood correctly served as some sort of look-out for “the fuzz, boss”, thus confirming that they are indeed dodgy people in so many, many ways) laying seige to gig-goers and happenstance commuters alike at Chalk Farm tube station, we conveniently arrived a comfortable five minutes ahead of our reviewee’s allocated stage time. Which is just as well, as it takes at least that amount of time to figure out just where the hell we’re supposed to be sat. Finally emerging to one particularly high-up vantage point looking down stage-right, one of the first things we notice is the alarming amount of bald and/or balding gentleman in the standing section below – or rather we cannot help but notice due to the high volume of venue lighting being reflected from the respective heads, glistening like a rock pool on a bright summers day. Serving more as an indicator as to the general age and/or maturity of tonight’s audience (or so we thought at that moment in time), it was refreshing to see such a large turnout already present in the venue ready to receive Broken Hands, who warm up for headliners Band Of Skulls this evening.[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5bBKt1dCE4]
The venue itself indeed provides the perfect setting for the former Track Of The Day’ers brand of bluesy-tinged rock’n’roll, and filing onto the stage to open with Sorrow, which we later learned is itself being released as a single on 25th March, reminds us strongly of when Stillwater opened for Black Sabbath in seminal rock-journo flick Almost Famous (the song in the latter’s case being Fever Dog, in case anyone gives a shit) receives a standard-for-London polite reception from our balding crowd. Their stoicism does not last long – by the time follow-ups Brother, If You Have To and Stick It To Me are delivered with a strong degree of confidence, the fuzzy-bass driven soundwaves eminating from the stage render stares of initial curiousity into firm (and repetitive) nods of approval, and feet that were at first stationary are now tapping in rhythmic unison. Indeed, the distorted rhythm section itself seems to be a powerful weapon in the arsenal Broken Hands have at their disposal, but it is quite clear that this is not the sole basis for earning approval tonight: there are prize moments of Kasabian, Jet, The Fratellis, White Stripes, even The Who in latter set composites No One Left To Meet and/or Shakey, yet setting all this aside, this is a band who have had absolute control over their own stage presence since the very beginning. What is refreshing to see is that despite the clear British guitar band comparisons, there are no “c’mon youse lot, let’s fuckin’ ‘ave ye” comments or stares of unbearable arrogance (with shades on in the sunsheeeeeeiiiiiine, obviously) – rather, the conversation is kept to a minimum, the band preferring their music doing the talking, courtesy of the aforementioned musical fuzziness and singer Dale Norton’s previously-understated powerful, raspey and articulated vocals. Certain younger audience members (that we just so happened to be sat right next to) perhaps get a little bit too enthralled by proceedings, as we witness during set-closer Wept that the couple in question start dancing on their feet, snogging, which leads to the male participant slapping the backside of the female with some degree of ferocity in front of several at-first-concerned-then-very-much-amused onlookers – although to be fair to him, this was done in time with the music itself.[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=amb9cJL2faA]
Based on tonight’s performance, we thinks it wouldn’t be terribly long before Broken Hands start cropping up as influence citations in their own right. A British guitar band with songs that hold to their own, an strong identity and without an iota of obnoxiousness to be found? Sounds too good to be true, but if that’s what it is, then that’s exactly what Broken Hands are.
Words: Achal Dhillon
Pictures: Broken Hands
Thanks to: Matt Harvey @ Paperhouse Music, Jamie Wade @ Xray Touring, Broken Hands