live review ~ 'rocky' album launch ~ the wonder villains, be like pablo, hot cops ~ bar sub, queens

If ever a band deserved a night of reckless abandon, it must surely be Derry City's Wonder Villains. They may play every quirk filled 'Rockshow' like it's their last, but that can't take away from the meticulous planning which runs alongside their natural enthusiasm. Although Saturday night's gig was clearly as carefully executed as any Villains show, there remained an unmistakable frivolity in the air which can only be attained after a certain degree of agonizing  dedication to the cause.

 Having secured backing from the increasingly powerful Polar Patrol Publishing company, the completion of their debut album and a guest appearance from none other than legendary Chelsea footballer Gianfranco Zola himself, the night marked the closing of a long chapter leading up to Rocky's release, and the opening of a brand new one. Tasked with writing the opening paragraph was Belfast's Hot Cops, a little known outfit playing only their fourth ever live gig...

To open at any album launch party is a rather tall order indeed. Throw into the mix a youthful band with little experience and you'd more than likely ponder the thinking behind such a bold statement from the triumphant hosts. Within the first thirty seconds it was abundantly clear why Hot Cops were on this bill. Taking despondent brilliance to new heights, the three piece's storming set was gently marooned amongst a band of almost intriguing niceties. Carl Eccles is a front man of quiet genius. Wonderfully intriguing, his slight awkwardness carries the Thom Yorke styled reluctance of a veteran performer (or perhaps anti-performer), with the intangible drawl of Julian Casablancas floating over perfectly chaotic rock and roll. It's a persona he must not compromise, as it looks to be paramount to the self proclaimed 'punk bitches' fascinating aesthetic. While Casablancas' New York contingent seem to have lost their way somewhat, Hot Cops pick up their baton and run with it. 'Kenzie's Farmhouse' ignites their set, ensuring their audiences attention even if the cleverness of the lyrical content was lost at times in a swirl of guitars.  'And you tied balloons to the corner of my mouth, to make it seem like I wanted to be there, but looking back I didn't want to be anywhere'.

For those fearing the death of rock and roll, Hot Cops provide a much needed life-line. Quite unbelievable for a band still in such early development. (See their debut EP 'Another Teen Age' below*)

Kicking their set off with the singalong juggernaut that is 'Julianne', Scotland's 'Be Like Pablo' seemed in typically exuberant form from the off. A perfect compliment to The Wonder Villains power pop, Be Like Pablo bring an ever so slightly rockier attitude to their live shows, without loosing the pristine riffs or Beach Boys styled harmonies in the process. Their interesting hybrid of guitar driven teenage ballads, were counterbalanced by a mixture of synths and at times, emotional piano. Focusing very much on the performance element, the pop five piece took every opportunity to engage the crowd before them. One fan taking the time to break dance (yes, break dance) mid-way through the cleverly adapted rap-styled 'Without The Pain'.

In all Be Like Pablo's love lorn tales of hope fell neatly into the hands of an audience who fully appreciated them. (& I highly doubt a public shunning from Glasgow's rap community is likely to deter their infectious charisma anytime soon) 

Perhaps the most appealing aspect of the fabulous Wonder Villains lies within their genuine nature. In an all too cynical world, optimism and passion is often misconstrued as a vain attempt to pull a veil over an artists true feelings. One look at these Villains however, and it's clear Kieran, Cheylene, Eimear and Ryan not only wear their hearts on their sleeves, but project it into each and every song. Songs that could nearly claim classic status already attracted a massive noise, with almost every person in the underground venue singing along to 'TV', '33' and of course the song which first brought them to mainstream attention in 'Zola'. Yet it was the newer contingent of hits that seemed the most impressive. Tracks like 'Baby Don't Feel So Sad' and 'Marshall' moving the audience from gentle sways to boundless dancing at ease. Of course, their performance matched the great quality of the set. Pausing midway through songs to sudden near static silence, before busting back into life seemed as natural as though it were a spontaneous decision. Hell, maybe it was. They're that good, it would no longer be surprising.

Yes, they can clearly host a great party (entering on stage to the original Rocky theme song simply reinforced that!), but to ignore this bands musicality would be a crime in itself as they are now impeccably tight. Lead guitarist Ryan McGroarty's riffs cascaded through Cheylene Murphy's shimering key-tar, all the while front woman Eimear Coyle never missed a bass note whilst maintaining their songs often fast paced melodies. In Kieran Coyle the Villains have one of the most accomplished drummers in the country, his explosive style an important component of the bands captivating live performances.

It was always destined to be a great night for one of our biggest bands, but even in all of Wonder Villains trademark enthusiasm, they may never have expected it to have been that good.

Taylor Johnson

Wonder Villains debut album 'Rocky' is out now!

For all official Wonder Villains news see the links below:

For all official Be Like Pablo news see the links below:

For all official Hot Cops:

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