Tissue Culture – Cluny January 2015 – REVIEW

My first show of 2015 and what a way to start, with one of the Northeast’s best kept secrets – Tissue Culture.

This evening they will play what I believe is their first headline show at The Cluny (main). They kindly brought along a few support bands with them and they added a special secret guest to the lineup. That’s all I needed to know; I happily headed out on a cold January evening and ran the gauntlet of a Saturday night in Newcastle during a full moon. Safe in the knowledge that it’ll be worth it!

Passing through the city on my way to Byker, I noticed the bars of Newcastle are very quiet tonight. The Cluny is bucking that trend and the venue is pretty damn busy. I guess the lure of Kingsley Chapman (of The Chapman Family fame) and a very special secret guest is enough to entice people out. Well they certainly made a good decision. I don’t really want to distract your attention away from the headliner, but my word the support acts most certainly worthy of a mention.

Three piece local band Apologies opened up the night with their groovy post-rock instrumental drone. Apologies are made up from 2 parts Let’s Buy Happiness and 1 part Young Liar, both extremely good bands in their own right. I made sure I got down early to catch their set. Cracking rhythm section with beastly percussion which tames and directs the intricate guitar drone. A rather full sound for a three piece. Impressive indeed.

Following that good start we have a secret solo set from one of the most praised vocalists in the Northeast – Nadine Shah. Apparently she had been ‘talked into it’ by the headliners a few days prior to the gig. She showed some slight signs of nerves I thought, uncomfortable at being alone up on that stage perhaps, which made for a dramatic and endearing performance. I’d love to hear her backed by a full band, although I feel very privileged to have witnessed this special set. Maybe the solo set didn’t engage me as much as I’d have hoped, but wow that voice! Yes this is a special treat and we are only at the half way point of the evening.

Next up Kingsley Chapman makes his return with his new band The Murder. Yup, what a lineup! Strong vocals deep lush baritone, shivers up your spine, Stockton’s very own Nick Cave. Obvious comparisons to his former band The Chapman Family are unavoidable, yet The Murder seems even darker and more mature. His voice seems more powerful with a edgy growl. The band offer up some slow brooding, highly crafted and epic songs. Chapman has a rather magnetic stage presence, all eyes are drawn to him. The band are a pleasure to photo, even with the 5 or 6 photographers in there jostling for position. That was truly a spectacle in itself!

As if the audience hadn’t been spoiled enough tonight, Nadine Shah walks on stage for a duet cover of the sublime Nick Cave classic ‘Where the Wild Roses Grow’, yes the Kylie one. Their voices complement each other extremely well.

And onto the main act…

Ok so it’s not much of a secret that I’m a fan of Tissue Culture, and in all honesty I’d have been here regardless of the support acts. First time I’ve seen this lot in the main Cluny, and as expected they barely fit on the stage in there, I’m sure they felt a bit cramped and claustrophobic, as they generally like to rock out. Many in the crowd seemed to be fans, and excitedly greeted them to the stage. I think they had visions of people leaving after the Chapman set, however around 95% of punters chose to stay.

They’re well known for their great live performances and I myself have been plugging away for this band since first seeing them at a NE:MM show early in 2014, opening for the excellent Post War Glamour Girls. My reaction at the time was one of amazement. Truly a unique and utterly mesmerising band, how had they escaped my attention before last year?! Well I headed home and bought their EPs from Bandcamp. That was it, I was hooked. At the time I compared them to the likes of Mogwai and early Twilight Sad (that in my books is a mighty compliment), indie rock with hints of shoegaze and post-rock with a pinch of bleak dark Northern lyricism. It’s a brilliant combination and Archie’s unique vocals are seeped in reverb, creating a powerful melodic drone. The 5 piece intertwine some great guitar riffs, trading off each other effortlessly, not an easy thing to pull of with 3 guitarists. Such a treat to watch them all going for it, heads down, rocking out, amps blazing.

Tonight they debuted some new material, I was particularly excited about this. It’s been a while since their last release Saint Waleric way back in 2012. They’d released a teaser track ‘Rainbow Codes‚ which they’d recorded live. I can imagine their sound being difficult to put down on record. That raw energy and wall of sound can take some talented engineering to capture. Think they’ve managed to nail the sound with this track, it just leaves me wanting to hear more.

I suspect that it’s not only me onto this gem of a band, judging by the strong local media presence tonight. Support acts may have encouraged a few more than usual but as I always say; it takes a great headline band to have the courage to put on great support acts. Tissue Culture not only provided an amazing bill, personally they were my performance of the evening. They have so much potential, give them some festival exposure or a good tour support slot and they’ll do very well.

I came to see a local band I love and left with a wider appreciation of Northeast music talent. What an absolute pleasure this evening has been.

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