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Cate Le Bon / David Thomas Broughton / The Toasters

by Now Then Sheffield

18 September
Plug

Cate le Bon drops in to Plug to promote her third album, last year's Mug Museum, recorded in LA after her move from west Wales to the West Coast. Though there are distinct traces of a Californian vibe, Cate's music and her muse are definitely, and defiantly, Welsh.

Support on this tour is H Hawkline, aka Huw (Cate's boyfriend), backed by Sweet Baboo on bass and Dan Ward on drums. The first impression is of a Doug Yule-era Velvet Underground. The musicians are all very capable and flexible, but they keep things simple and pretty sparse, chugging away in an early 70s NYC groove.

Cate takes her place stage right, not in the traditional pop star position of upfront and central. The first three songs (‘No God’, ‘Cyrk’ and ‘Are You With Me Now?’) are performed with no between-song chat, her delivery earnest and understated. Album opener ‘I Can't Help You’ is brighter and more upbeat and, though some of the album's subtleties are lost in the live sound, the band gel into a dynamic ensemble.

The band - Huw, Baboo and Ward - generally play in a restrained manner, complementing Cate's engaging songs, occasionally exploding into a psychedelic frenzy, as in the two-minute mid-section of ‘Wild’.

Cate ditches her guitar mid-set for a couple of numbers and this seems to free her voice to stretch and soar beautifully. ‘Sisters’ and ‘Cuckoo Through The Walls’ both feature great circular keyboard motifs, and in the latter the band peak in a cacophonous climax, before an angelic vocal coda. The main set finishes with ‘Fold The Cloth’ and Cate really shows her chops with two potent guitar breaks.

The encores surprise and enchant. The first is a cover of Thin Lizzy's ‘Wild One’ (“You asked for this, Sheffield”), with Cate and Huw replicating Lizzy's duelling twin guitars, and the second is ‘Frank Mills’ from the Hair soundtrack, sung solo by Cate. A dramatic and uplifting end to the evening.

Pete Martin

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9 September
Greystones

Sam and Sofia are quietly doing great things in Sheffield, bringing some of the most talented singer-songwriters to our fair city. Tonight they're hosting an artist who has been making music for almost a decade now.

David Thomas Broughton is an interesting character. Often labelled as a folk singer, the Yorkshireman is much more than that. He's an incredibly talented singer-songwriter who is a consummate showman with an air of eccentricity and surrealism. He has a string of releases behind him, including a fruitful collaboration with chamber music group 7 Hertz. Sliding The Same Way, the new album, is a partnership with a cappella voice trio Juice Vocal Ensemble. Tonight they open for and accompany him.

There's an atmosphere of intrigue and anticipation in the Backroom of the Greystones as Juice Vocal Ensemble take to the stage. I must confess I have no idea quite what to expect. They mainly perform songs from their new album, mixing covers of well-known songs like ‘You Don't Love Me (No, No, No)’ and ‘A Little Respect’ with more leftfield fare. Whilst their interpretations work well, it's the more experimental work which leaves a lasting impression.

No two David Thomas Broughton performance are the same, and tonight we're treated to a show which at times borders on the theatrical. His live music is based heavily on spontaneity and improvisation. Using a loop pedal and guitar to full effect, he's on top form. There's a lovely moment when he discovers a loose floorboard and inserts it into a song. Juice Vocal Ensemble play along with his shenanigans, often feigning boredom as he wanders off in odd directions. At one point they spread to all four corners of the room, their voices combining in perfect harmony. They complement each other beautifully, making for a mesmerising set full of charm, subtlety and damn fine music.

Rob Aldam

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17 September
Riverside

Hailing from New York, it’s fair to say that The Toasters are the real deal. If it was politeness that got Leeds band The Indecision through their set and energy that blew the roof off for Sheffield’s own Smiling Ivy, then it was professionalism and experience that took the trousers off the night for The Toasters.

Taking to the stage after a fire alarm, the 80s legends plunged into a set of ska classics and engaged the mixed crowd, made up roughly of 50% former mods and 50% ska loving youth. Each intro and crescendo moulded together like hot dog and mustard as they roared through the set.

Lead singer Robert ‘Bucket’ Hingley chatted to the crowd at every opportunity, changing any city reference to the words ‘Sheffield’ and ‘Yorkshire’ above a bed of uptempo jazz that resonates with its back street big apple roots.

Key moments included a five-minute instrumental jam which saw the crowd whipped into a frenzy, with articles of clothing and a pair of crutches waving in the air, amongst other party tools, whilst ‘Don’t Let The Bastards Drag You Down’, a track dedicated to politicians all over the world, was another delight.

The frontman explained how he can say what he wants in the people’s language, “because they won’t understand,” a sentiment which renewed vigour in those intent on creating a raucous end to the night.

The band could be summed up in my own words, but echoing the words of Cool Beans resident DJ Fat Pig is just as fitting. “How fucking good was that?” he said. “They are possibly the best band in the world.” Hyperbole perhaps, but the excitement behind the words was felt by all in the room.

William Hitchmough

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30 September
Leadmill

With The Leadmill voted Venue of the Year in the 2014 Fly Awards and The Horrors renowned as a great live band, a venture to Sheffield to see the Southend outfit seemed like an ideal match, and it really was.

Covered in a sea of dry ice and a zealous light show, with no fuss the band launched into ‘Chasing Shadows’, the first track from their fourth album Luminous, which engulfed the venue with trickling synths and entrancing vocals and guitar. Lead singer Faris Badwan has previously mentioned that fans had felt sick on their last tour of third album Skying due to their light show and it certainly wasn’t for the faint hearted.

It was the tracks from the new album that got some of the biggest reactions, including ‘So Now You Know’, which was well worth the wait for the encore, and a mesmerising performance of ‘I See You’. There are still a few teething issues, including some microphone feedback during the encore and a rather awkward fumble from Faris to force the microphone to the amp, but it certainly doesn’t detract from the sound.

Guitar music is always great in smaller venues like the Leadmill as it builds more of an atmosphere and this gig was no different. It’s clear The Horrors prefer a more intimate setting to show what they’re capable of, and it’s the longer songs where we really see them in their element. The anticipation and build-up to the climaxes of ‘Sea Within A Sea’ and ‘Moving Further Away’, which they end on, is spellbinding.

Psychedelic rock from a band hitting their stride at a venue that has been hosting guitar music excellently for over three decades - of course it was going to be a good evening.

Brady Frost

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by Now Then Sheffield

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