LIVE REVIEW: The Smiths Tribute @ Factory Theatre (24/09/16)

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The Salford Lads feat. Christine Jane

Covering another artist can be either be an exercise in slavish re-creation of their music, an attempt to replicate it as accurately as possible, or an insightful reinterpretation of their songs, adding a new shade, a new flavour to the music. This night was a tribute to The Smiths, in honour of the 30th anniversary of the band’s album The Queen Is Dead and we got both those approaches with differing results.

img_7019Early on Panic Syndrome added a goth-rock sense of drama with ‘Shoplifters of the World Unite’ being a standout in their set. It highlighted the scope of The Smiths catalogue from rockist anthems such as this, right through to the introspective and moodier moments that would follow. Another band that played it pretty close to the chest but with a real sense of energy and enthusiasm were Mr Blonde. They perhaps best nailed the celebratory aspect of the night.

JMS Harrison and Cabin Inn took the atmospheric approach with an extended keyboard intro of ‘Oscillate Wildly’ and Harrison nailing the lonesome melancholy of ‘Asleep’, one of the highlights of the evening. Sonically they worked interesting textures into the songs, putting their own stamp on the music.

The Maladies tackled one of The Smiths’ most famous songs in ‘This Charming Man’ with Dan Marando putting his devilish and theatrical take on the song, adding intensity and tension to it. That was ratcheted up a notch with ‘Sweet and Tender Hooligan’ before they introduced Lisa Caruso who transformed ‘I Know It’s Over’ into a beautiful and sultry Mazzy Star-styled torch-song , dialling into the core of Morrissey’s swooning and tragic romanticism.

It was up to The Salford Lads (feat. members of Charlie Horse, Died Pretty and Panic Syndrome) who provided excellent backing for singers Christine Jane and The Church’s Steve Kilbey. Opening with instrumental ‘The Draize Train’ they proved immediately that they had a handle on the taut rock and groove-based elements of The Smiths’ sound. Jane showed she knows how to work an audience, urging participation and bridging the gap between stage and audience, something that most other acts didn’t really do. Vocally she was a bit hit and miss, enthusiasm trumping her service to the songs as she sang ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’ and ‘Boy With A Thorn In His Side’.

img_7018From then on the night took a turn into the weird and awkward world of Steve Kilbey and his mix of interpretive dance, yoga poses and stage messiah gesturing. It was as if he was in a rush to get it all out, missing lines, singing wrong lyrics, sacrificing singing for unbridled emotive vocal outpourings. It felt like a pending train-wreck and it was only the well-oiled band that kept their set on the tracks. ‘The Queen Is Dead’, b-side ‘Jeane’ and ‘How Soon Is Now’ were given widescreen guitar heavy treatment yet Kilbey went for the grandiose when he needed restraint and spent far too much time on cardio vs audio. The audience visibly thinned during the closing set and were left with a single encore of, bizarrely, a cover of the only non-Smiths song for the night – Gloria.

In all there were some fine performances with only the end of night detracting from the overall success of the evening. Perhaps next time one house band with guest players and singers may have better suited the tribute format.

Chris Familton

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6 thoughts on “LIVE REVIEW: The Smiths Tribute @ Factory Theatre (24/09/16)

  1. ET

    Thanks for the run down of the tribute gig last night. I was there and being a The Smiths fan it was great hearing the songs brought to life on stage. I agree with most of your comments, except for Christine Janes’ vocal rendition of some of the most iconic and memorable songs of Morrissey and Marr. She, for me, very much missed the feeling and the whimsy of the songs she performed. What you called “enthusiasm”, I call “panic”. Having herself confessed to the audience that she was not familiar with the songs, she proceeded to butcher “Bigmouth Strikes Again” to the point of utter frustration for me and much of the audience, if the applause were anything to go by. There is a huge difference between an artist’s interpretation of a well known classic and someone making it up as they go along. This part of the gig really let down what otherwise was a great night.

  2. 2000

    I was there too. I agree with ET on Christine Jane – screaming out a Smith’s song was not my idea of covering The SMiths. Steve was kooky and the others were uncomfortable in singing the songs and Lisa was my highlight.
    Anyways i think you missed the best bit out of the review when a few yelled out ‘Milky Way’ and Unguarded Moment’….Steve was not a happy chappy.
    Overall an entertaining night….sort of….

  3. Richard C

    Wynstan…. nail and head. Sorry to say it but the night was a disaster. Squirmingly embarrassing. Most singers appeared to be incapable of singing in key. There was very little nuance in most performances with over eager garage bands leaping into their 2 or 3 song set with inappropriate gusto. Mr Blonde…… your mike swinging moment was classic stagecraft exhibited by rocked up science teachers at the end of year concert. Whoever sang ‘Sweet and Tender Hooligan’ thought his cute trick of inflecting up at the end of each line was quirky, edgy. It was just bad. There were some enjoyable moments. But they are lost in the overwhelming frustration at watching poorly
    So we stuck around for Steve Kilbey to add some professionalism to the night. I suppose he did, but his ‘let’s be edgy rock guys’ and’ let’s get this fucken turkey on the road’ attitude just felt forced. Little wonder he felt he had to pull something out of the bag for an audience which was desperate to enjoy the evening but low on energy as the night progressed. Chill Steve…..your stilted banter with the guitarist was just awkward. Sorry ‘Kilbo’.
    Final word to the sound desk. Learn how to mix! I know some of the muso’s were frustrated at the lack of clarity. Johnny Marr’s riffs were just lost in the wall of treble which tumbled from the speakers.
    For mine the reviewer offered faint praise and didn’t have the courage to call it as the embarrassment it was.
    A ‘Battle of the Bands’ with a Smiths theme it was. A successful tribute it was not.

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