Words by John Noblet / Pics by Jonathan Morgan
The combination of one man and an acoustic guitar can be an unadulterated recipe for boredom, especially if the man in question is playing a ‘rarities’ set.
Luckily, tonight, that man is Miles Hunt, leader of reformed Black Country indie disco faves The Wonder Stuff. The Hare & Hounds’ audience look unlikely to know all of the songs in Hunt‘s set, but this doesn’t seem to matter; his sweary stage banter and passionate delivery should keep everyone interested.
Hunt’s solo songs display the same qualities that made so many people love The Wonder Stuff in the first place, namely a cynicism equals truth approach to lyrics and some killer hooks (so good, in fact, that I am Googling the songs as I procrastinate my way through this review).
The contrast between the first and second set of the evening makes it seem like we’ve suddenly been transported to a different venue.
I sense the sea change before Erica Nockalls and her band even play a note; Erica wears a pink tutu and has neon ribbons tied to her mic stand in a fashion reminiscent of nu-rave. Her guitarist has a Ramones style fashion sense, and the synthy-noises give way to an opener that is described in my notes as ‘futuristic Baroque new wave’.
Nockalls’ set includes influences from all over the rock spectrum (grunge, punk, metal), filling out her songs with quick blasts of violin, (and boy, can she play the violin) in between commanding vocals.
As a front woman, she has developed an impressive approach of her own in the tradition of legends like Joan Jett and Garbage’s Shirley Manson, but injected with a firm sense of her own personality.
However, I have to admit that Erica Nockalls didn’t steal my heart away, even though she held my attention. I think she’s yet to write the song that will get her the mainstream attention her sound seems to be aiming for, though there is undoubtedly an audience for her out there.
But the unexpected treat of the evening is an impromptu solo set from She Makes War.
The crowd looked slightly shocked to see SMW closing the night with a set of haunting lullabies backed with intricate loops, but she has an impressive talent for engaging her audience, especially considering how introspective her music can be.
During her third song she builds a loop made entirely of her own harmonised vocals and then leaves the stage armed with a megaphone to sing the lead vocal as she walks through the crowd. It’s a simple idea, brilliantly executed.
There’s a quiet but solid confidence to her stage presence which makes her performance both charming and compelling.
The set ends with SMW precariously but triumphantly balanced in front of a monitor, strumming a turquoise ukulele with the audience singing and clapping along in joyous wonder.
Expect great things from this woman.
For more on Erica Nockalls, visit http://www.ericanockalls.com/
For more on Miles Hunt (et all), visit http://www.thewonderstuff.com/
For more on She Makes War, visit http://shemakeswar.com/
For further gigs at the Hare & Hounds, visit http://hareandhoundskingsheath.co.uk/