Live review: The Curves, Cressa, Spangled. Oporto bar, Leeds. 27th April 2023

£9? £9! That was the cost to see three bands and to share over two hours of live music. It costs way more than that for a couple of pints in Leeds! That’s the quandary…with the cost of living the way is is at present, which is better value? I’ll let you answer that one for yourselves.

First up were The Curves, a four piece guitar band originally from way down south but now plying their trade out of Leeds where they continue to study music at the Conservatoire. They’ve been around for a little while now after originally starting out as a three piece. There’s a rawness to them but also a mellowness that comes from the vocals and the harmonic lead guitar work. There are indie edges combined with some soul roots which creates an intriguing but powerful mix.

It’s never easy playing first but as the set progressed The Curves grew into it with each song, gaining momentum and confidence. They, of course, brought some followers with them but also gained more than a handful by the end of their performance, having the crowd in the palm of their hand by this point. It was their first time playing Oporto but you couldn’t tell. We experienced their first single as well as some recent, new and forthcoming releases. ‘Lose’ and ‘Annabella’ were memorable highlights along with ‘Another Love Letter’. A band to definitely remember for another day. 

Cressa are a band that I’ve wanted to find out more about for a little while now, being local lads to me. They hail from the wider Keighley area and clearly have their musical influences cemented in the 80s and 90s Madchester scene (the clue is in the name) and Britpop but are intent on bringing it bang up to date with their own style and energy. Comprised of brothers Alex (vocals) and Tom Arana (lead guitar), Johnny Thompson (rhythm guitar), Archie Walker (bass) and Harry Harwood (drums) this is a band with ambition and drive. They’ve already shared the stage with the likes of Vivas, Sunbeam and The White Heat in recent months and are intent on bringing their own brand of indie guitar music to the masses as quickly as they can.

There’s bits of Oasis, Stone Roses, Charlatans in there mixed with the harsher sounds of Kasabian and Arctic Monkeys but all done with their own confidence and swagger on stage, typified by front man Alex. There’s attitude and arrogance there too; traits needed to go further in the music business but there’s a degree of humility too. At heart they are just five lads living the dream after all. It was a powerful set containing recent releases ‘Out My Mind’ and ‘Let Me Know’ as well as their latest number ‘Time To Think Things Over’. Expect more from this band in the near future.

There are some bands where you have to follow up a live performance with a listen to their recorded work to understand them and then there are others where you need to see and hear them in the flesh first for it to make sense. For me, Spangled fall into the latter category. I’d been wanting to see them for a while and missed out on a recent opportunity so I awaited them with a mixture of excitement and intrigue. They are true exponents of indie pop but with scatterings of glam rock, humour and intergalactic space dust thrown in for good measure. There’s some real quality musicianship going on within the four piece who have definitely begun to put their own stamp on the Manchester music scene.

There are, of course, the expected influences of The Stone Roses and Oasis in there but there’s also clearly some Buzzcocks that oozes through too. Their music is heavily underpinned by the bass of Niall McGovern and the percussion of Nathan Kenyon. Jamie Halliday adds the guitar, rhythmic in the main and Marr-esque when needed, giving the finesse and polish to many of their songs. Ben Johnson’s vocals are a delight. There’s energy and accuracy here in the way he performs, bringing the honest at times, zany at others, lyrics to life. He’s certainly an entertainer and a frontman, both in his larger than life actions and his dramatic storytelling of the songs as well as in the way that he commands the stage and crowd. There’s a wonderful, brotherly like rapport between him and McGovern who bounce off each other between tunes to raise the banter stakes. 

It was a wonderful musical concoction of songs and styles that kept the band on stage for an hour. They were determined to entertain and that they did, building the energy with each song. We processed through ‘Headspace’, ‘Greenhills’ Superstar’ and their latest release ‘That Farm in Dunham’ before their ardent followers were treated to what they had been baying for…’Crossbar Challenge’, an early release with a high tempo and ‘boys in the playground’ type lyrics. This was followed by the more emotive ‘Good Life Better’. This is the song that initially sparked my interest in the band after a twitter based recommendation… If the new music advocate Sam Shiner says that it’s her favourite tune then you really do need to take a listen. Thanks Sam.

The set was well and truly rounded off with the superb ‘’Cosmic Vibrations’ or so we thought. The lads couldn’t help themselves and we were treated to an elongated rendition of ‘We’ll Always Have Neptune’ that stretched the curfew to its limits.

For such a small venue it’s fair to say that we witnessed something of a show rather than a gig. A hugely individual performance with a heavy ‘space’ theme in the lyrics. Only the band know why but ultimately it’s what makes them who they are – entertainers. 

There’s been plenty of noise out there in recent months about unsigned bands and whether or not they have talent, somewhat in response to a certain DJ from around these parts. This gig was proof, if needed, that talent abounds. Unsigned or not, this is how bands make the money to carry on performing. Streaming does not and cannot do this. 

It was a great way to spend an evening…and £9? £9! Get out there and try it for yourself!

Words by Duncan Grant 


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