The Lottery Winners and Pet Needs Live at Leeds Brudenell 20/04/2023

Whoever schedules these tours and books support acts needs a huge round of applause for making a perfect match. Pet Needs, although of a different musical genre, are just as entertaining on stage as The Lottery Winners…and not just for the tunes that they knock out. We were treated to half an hour of non stop high energy immersion into their mad, mad world.

A four piece band hailing from Colchester, Essex, Pet Needs represent the post punk movement, proclaiming it loudly through their slogan ‘punk isn’t dead, it’s just not for sale’. Musically tight, they metaphorically threw us around their set, bouncing us from song to song with the tempo of a runaway train.

It was a perfect warm up for The Lottery Winners. Pet Needs are like the love child of a threesome between Yard Act, The Stranglers and Half Man Half Biscuit; frenetic guitar punk pop mixed with dialogue and not a little humour. Any band that pens lyrics like ‘I need Tourette’s like Ibiza in winter’ and ‘It’s like Tracey Emin’s head in my bed’ gets my vote. To cement this they even changed their name mid set, albeit temporarily to Pet Leeds with a spray can of paint on their high quality cardboard backdrop.

Strip away the irony and what you have is a talented band who are just brilliant live. Anyone who has supported Frank Turner can’t be half bad after all, can they?

I’d seen The Lottery Winners three times before, but all in very different settings; an outdoor festival, an indoor festival and at a socially distanced gig before an England match during the last Euros. I loved them live then but was intrigued to see what a ‘normal’ gig might be like. Would there be as much humour? Would there be more songs? Would they be as musically good as I remembered? The simple answer to all three questions was yes. In fact YES in capital letters.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a band stay on stage and entertain solidly for over an hour and a half! True, the performance was punctuated heavily by banter, chat, anecdotes and comedy from the lead singer and guitarist Thom Rylance, but that shouldn’t detract from the set list proper and the immersion into the melodic world of the Leigh four piece. These Laythers have got so much under their belt in terms of a back catalogue and we were treated to the best of it. Kicking off with ‘Worry’ they meandered through their albums, singles and new releases, changing tempo, style and singer along the way.

Whilst Thom took the lead on the majority of songs the vocals were passed to Katie Lloyd for ‘85 trips’ and ‘Sunshine’ as well as for a large part of their latest release ‘Burning House’. She is equally as good a vocalist as she is a bassist and has got to be one of the happiest musicians out there, her smile beaming out through the whole set. She clearly loves stage life and her music and this was as infectious as the band itself. In fact, the only time the smile briefly left her face was when she fell over the roadie whilst he was adjusting the bass drum microphone!

Something of a measure of The Lottery Winners’ strength and appeal is the number of high profile artists that they have worked or collaborated with. Recently this has included Boy George on ‘Let Me Down’, but unfortunately he couldn’t make it to Leeds on a Thursday night so guitarist Rob Lally swapped places (and guitars) with Thom to sing the vocals. To be honest, if you didn’t know then you wouldn’t have known at all; he performed it beautifully, befitting the recording itself and showing yet another dimension of the band.

Frank Turner couldn’t make it either – for any of the songs he’s been involved in – but particularly for ‘Letter to Myself’. This is a wonderful, autobiographical penning from Thom that does exactly as the title describes. Words of wisdom and guidance are given to a 12 year old Rylance through the form of a spoken letter. In true form, however, we were asked to help provide the chorus and help him get through the poignancy of the song, which he did…just. And not forgetting Shaun Ryder. He couldn’t make it for his collaboration ‘Money’ either, so Thom styled out the vocals for this one. As much as he was, yet again, brilliant on it the song’s highlight was not his vocals.

In fact it was that Bez couldn’t make it either, but Yorkshire and England cricketer Johnny Bairstow could! After visiting the band back stage pre gig he’d tried his best to blend into the crowd but Thom was having none of it. Up he was dragged to play the smallest maracas imaginable for the song, much to the embarrassment of the drummer Joe Singleton who is a clear fan of the batsman. He is now affectionately know as Johnny Bezstow! It was yet another moment of incredulity in the gig along with Thom painting a picture whilst Katie was singing and taking Polaroid photos during the middle eight of ‘Start Again’, all of which could be won when purchasing a lanyard and CD from the merch stand.

It was a fantastic gig. Energetic, entertaining, engaging and full of wit and humour with the band at the top of their game musically. Favourites such as ‘Meaning of Life’, ‘Much Better’ and ‘Favourite Flavour’ were intertwined with the balladic ‘Overthink Everything’ in memory of Seymour Stein who signed them for Warner. With every song the interaction and the energy grew before they signed off with ‘21’ as their encore.

By the time this review is out so too will be their new album ‘Anxiety Replacement Therapy’. It may well have pinnacled at number one too, flying in the face of other, manufactured music out there. This is band who’ve done it the long way, the hard way, the proper way and they deserve the success and recognition that they are now getting.

Excuse the pun but perhaps this time and with this release they may actually win their lottery! They’re still out there on tour so get down and see them…or buy the album. Either way you won’t be disappointed.

Words by Duncan Grant.


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