“Lay back and enjoy the ride…”
York singer/songwriter Chris Helme is, of course, best remembered as the front man of Britpop heroes the Seahorses. The story goes that a friend of a friend of Stone Roses guitarist John Squire heard Helme busking in York and passed word to Squire who promptly hired him for his new project the Seahorses. The band enjoyed critical and commercial success with their sole album Do It Yourself before disbanding. Since then, Helme has continued to tour across the country and has released a number of solo albums. On a chilly, autumnal night, Helme picked liberally from his back catalogue and threw in a few carefully chosen covers as well.
When you have a song called ‘Hello’, you are pretty much legally obliged to open your set with it. Helme’s voice sounded impeccable as he delivered a stripped back, acoustic version of the closing song from Do It Yourself. In the absence of a backing band, the York troubadour played acoustically all night and this added a new dimension to already familiar tracks. ‘Lorali’ features a beautiful, finger picked intro and it was clear by this point that there is so much more to Chris Helme then a handful of tracks from the 90s.
Having said that, his performance of the Seahorses single ‘You Can Talk To Me’ was one of the highlights of the evening with the crowd in good voice throughout. Helme has a relaxed and engaging on stage presence that gave the evening a feeling of intimacy as he chatted to the audience and introduced each song with a story. A cover of The Faces ‘Ooh La La’ was as welcome as it was unexpected and it sat nicely alongside ‘Pleased’ and ‘Summer Girl’ from Helme’s 2012 album The Rookery. The great thing about Helme as a live performer is that his voice is so strong that his songs actually sound better live than they do on record. This also means that any cover he performs always has his own unique spin on it. The Grateful Dead are not a band you would normally associate with a Britpop act but Helme’s cover of the Dead’s ‘Friend of the Devil’ is sinister and bluesy and perfect for a little venue like The Leopard.
Helme barely bothered to soundcheck before the gig, something that other bands should take immediate note of, and he didn’t bother with going off stage only to return for an encore. Helme is a no frills performer and the gig was all the better for it. The evening is closed out with a stunning performance of the Seahorses two biggest hits. ‘Love is the Law’ is perhaps the bands best known song and it is soaring and wonderful here. ‘Blinded by the Sun’ has always been my favourite of theirs however, and Helme absolutely did it justice with a heartfelt and enthusiastic rendition that had the crowd going wild.
I have seen pretty much every band or singer associated with Britpop, as these were the songs that I grew up with in my formative years. Chris Helme at the Leopard is as good a show as I have seen anywhere. A truly epic evening.
Rob Johnson – www.robwatchesmovies.com
This is not an exhaustive list (check out the excellent weekly Doncopolitan listings for that) but rather some of the major events taking place in Doncaster in the next couple of months or so.
One of Doncaster’s more intimate venues has a couple of great gigs lined up, with Britpop mainstays Chris Helme and Hurricane #1 both gracing The Leopard before the year is out.
Chris Helme was the lead singer in the popular Britpop band the Seahorses and has released numerous albums under his own name. Helme rocks up to The Leopard on 7th October. You can grab tickets here.
Hurricane #1 are from a similar era and are perhaps best known for their smash hit ‘Only the Strongest Will Survive’. Another gig not to be missed. The gig takes place on 10th October and tickets are available here.
Diamond Live Lounge
Diamond have consistently booked interesting and critically acclaimed bands and they have a couple more big names due to appear in November.
The Hoosiers are celebrating the 10th anniversary of their number 1 album The Trick to Life. The record spawned hit singles such as ‘Worried About Ray’ and ‘Goodbye Mr A’ so their gig at Doncaster most beautiful venue promises to be a belter.
Goldie Lookin’ Chain have form in Doncaster having once memorably performed at Belle Vue, the much missed former home of Doncaster Rovers. The Welsh rappers will be joined by Doncaster legend MC Devvo on 17th November. Tickets here.
Doncaster’s largest venue is always capable of attracting the big names and multi million selling rock band Placebo are as big as they come. The US rockers are gracing the Dome on 10th October. Click here for tickets.
Finally we have us NU-Metal band Crazytown bringing their brand of rap/rock to The Woolpack. It is a real coup for the market place pub to host a multi million selling artist in what promises to be an intriguing night. Tickets available here.