It’s a cold and rainy evening in Manchester and The Albert Hall is filling up quite nicely. The opening act is Patrick James – who’s most recent album Outlier, was released this time last year. He has a folk persona, an acoustic guitar and a keyboard too. He sounds a little like a slower, more delicate Mumford & Sons, which is quite relaxing. His stage presence is understated but confident, and the songs he played from his album were wonderful, he also played a compelling cover of The Killers’ ‘Runaways’ which warmed up the crowd.
Next on stage is Matthew and The Atlas, close your eyes and imagine sitting in a log cabin, being sung to by a burley lumberjack, surrounded with a full band and a female backing vocal. Heartache can pack a punch when released in song but it felt as though lead singer Matthew Hegarty was holding back during the set, yet there is something very refreshing about them.
It’s 9pm, lights go down and orchestral bass illuminates The Albert Hall. Bear’s Den are a live band in the truest sense, having built a career playing gigs anywhere and everywhere that would let them. It’s not a surprise when the boys effortlessly bridge the gap between audience and performer, but it is still refreshing at a time when basic human connection can feel quite elusive.
Songs from the album Red Earth & Pouring Rain were met with a roar. The title track has welcome tinges of The War on Drugs while the oomph of soaring folk-rock stormer ‘Dew on the Vine’ hears Davie muse on his untameable heart and sounds set to be a road trip playlist.
Lyrically there is something bonding in these hope-fuelled songs. Clearly, the band feel it too, before ending the evening they played a tender rendition of early EP favourite ‘Agape’.
Better known songs from Islands inspire a sing-a-long, the sensitive, more serious moments were lightened by smiles and coming closer on stage.