The Red Kites
Live (Akeel / The Broken Dolls)
This is one of the hardest gigs I’ve ever had to review. And not because it was bad, but because it was good. Very good. A level of polished, accomplished musicianship rarely heard with such consistency at an unsigned gig. Which basically means the bands have collectively mopped up my creative juices with their crusty, wholemeal talent. But here goes.
Apart from the lead singer’s slight resemblance to Jesus, Akeel look and sound like a polished, professional melodic rock band – Oasis under the management of Travis, perhaps. The pleasant, unchallenging tracks about girls and feelings would be perfectly at home on an OC soundtrack and certainly wouldn’t offend your parents.
This is all very nice, but fails to fully engage the hot blooded desire for some gravely grooves. They lack the swagger and charisma of real rock upstarts; the trendy beards aren’t fooling me. Like osmosis, you find your toe tapping without noticing it and realise you’ve chatted through a pleasant song without hesitating.
This is redeemed slightly in ‘Sleep’, which ups the tempo with punchy rapid riffs, neatly controlled by some steady drumming. The crowd love it, and there is so much good will in the room it could be a family affair. The emo vibes are engaging in part because you don’t expect such quality musicianship from a warm-up act.
Next up are the equally convincing Broken Dolls. With such a quality rock name, I worried they might be setting themselves up for a fall, but they hit the nail on the head with funky, fast-paced beats that left me smiling in awe and, I admit, surprise.
This is slick rock and roll with panache and style, and the lead singer knows how to engage the audience – even while hobbling on a crutch. They claim to be from Coventry but the frontman has an odd cockney twang that hints of years on the live circuit.
Practice makes perfect though, and despite singing a song about a girl called Peaches, (in Coventry? Unlikely, surely), The Broken Dolls have crafted a sound that is anthemic and accessible. The drums are light and don’t clutter the music and the melodies rise and fall seamlessly. I can even forgive clichéd lyrics along the lines of ‘what don’t kill you will make you stronger’.
The songs are simplistic and the riffs repetitive, but they get into your head like a song heard on the radio. This band knows the merits of popular cultures and hit the spot with a lead singer who sounds a little like Tim Booth and electronics borrowed from the Bravery. Gratuitous rocky tracks with sing-a-long choruses are thrown in for good measure and would be right at home at a booze-fuelled wedding reception complete with dancing granny.
Headline band of the night, the much anticipated Red Kites, have a tough act to follow, but they live up to their reputation and delivered with style. Admittedly the venue is packed with their enthusiastic fan base, but this just alights the already buoyant mood. They sound like the Beach Boys having discovered rock and roll – it would be impossible not to enjoy it!
The Red Kites stick to classic song structures with frequent tempo changes, well paced and well thought out riffs and catchy, melodic choruses. The five piece, hailing from the West Midlands, are natural performers – soaking up the cheers with confident modesty.
The catchy, Kinks-inspired lyrics and retro guitars could’ve been penned 30 years ago. The trippy, psychedelic melodics inspire a warm glow in you – like Coldplay meets the Rolling Stones. Maybe it’s the free-flowing beers, but everyone seems to be smiling.