The Rooftop of the Shankly Hotel has breath-taking views of the picturesque skyline of Liverpool. It is best known as a venue for weddings. Over the last twelve months or so it has established itself as a venue for live music.
Under the stewardship of Keith Mullin, guitarist from The Farm, the ‘Signature Live Sessions’ are becoming ‘must see’ events combining new local bands with established local legends. I managed to collar Keith prior to the gig and ask him why he put tonight’s paring together? ‘I’ve wanted to put The Real People on for ages. To me they represented the best of what was coming out of Liverpool at the time. The Cheap Thrills represent the best of what is coming out of Liverpool now. It was an obvious choice to put them on together.’. A big claim? Plot spoiler alert. He wasn’t far wrong.
Kicking off were The Cheap Thrills, self-styled as a Garage/Psyche band. Usually a four-piece, tonight a threesome consisting of Lewis Pike (guitar and Lead Vocals), Terry Eaves (Guitar, keyboard, vocals) and Anton Eager (Drums). Intriguingly missing was bass-player ‘Fitzy’ (although he did turn-up in unusual fashion for the last two songs, as a life-size cardboard cut-out!). They opened confidently with ‘Saint or Sinner’ and ‘Sentimentality’, two songs that let you know what you’re letting yourself in for: trippy synth melodies; building, pounding drums; high-energy guitars and thoughtful, passionate lyrics. If you are a fan of comparisons, think of the offspring of a loving relationship between The Vaccines and Muse. ‘Machine’ followed, a song so spacey it could have been written in the TARDIS. If I had a concern for The Cheap Thrills, it was over the size of the place. The rooftop is about the size of three 5-a-side football pitches. There was a large gap between the stage and the audience. It was hard for the band and the crowd to feed off each other. The more anthemic songs in the middle of the set help to bridge this gap. Songs like ‘Smile when you sleep’ and ‘Codependence’ have all the right lifts, drops and gaps for a good crowd sing-a-long, and when invited the Shankly Rooftop duly obliged. You don’t need much imagination to see these as future crowd pleasers on the festival circuit. A well- judged and thoroughly enjoyable set was brought to a conclusion with the slower (relatively), more mellow, but none the less, spacey and reverby ‘Same Old Faces’. Lead singer Lewis signed off with ‘We’re The Cheap Thrills from Walton Vale’. If you’re lucky, soon you’ll be leaving a gig having heard the final words ‘We’re the Cheap Thrills from Liverpool’.
As the sun was setting over the Liverpool skyline The Real People entered the stage. This was the reason for most of the crowd being here. It was like the Gathering of the Clans. I overheard tales about vast distances travelled, and saw old friends reunited, all because they felt they had to be here. I don’t think there is another city that idolises its old heroes as much as Liverpool does.
What can you say about ‘The Realies’? If BBC 4 or Sky Arts, or whoever, revisits that Rock Family Trees format, and does a Brit-Pop edition, then right down there, in the roots, or at the base of the trunk, is where you’ll find The Real People. Then there’s their well-documented influence and support for the burgeoning career of a certain band from Manchester. There’s also a back catalogue of brilliant tunes, most of which the crowd will be treated to tonight.
The set starts with a couple of well received songs off the ‘Think Positive’ album, then things kick up a gear with when the band play some more join-in-able songs like ‘People in the Telly’ and ‘Runaway’. One of the worries when seeing a band with this sort of longevity is how have the voices held up? No such concerns here. Chris and Tony Griffiths’ vocals are spot on. This is important. The vocals are a vital part of the The Real Peoples sound. The vocals have never been a straightforward ‘Lead/backing’ arrangement. I suppose it helps being brothers, but the vocals swap, mingle, intertwine. Think more Finn Brothers rather than…well anyone else. Tony seems to be enjoying himself, joking with the crowd, ‘Have you seen the size of that wasp?’ (referring to a drone which is filming the gig). He later tells his brother ‘Should have gone to Specsavers’ when Chris struggles to read the set list in the gathering darkness. Great songs keep coming, ‘Smash it Up’ and ‘The Truth’ both getting enthusiast receptions. As The Real People wind up, Chris seems to be having a few technical difficulties with his monitor and is getting a bit aggravated. ‘Just kick it, like in the old days’ advises Tony. The set concludes with a storming version of ‘Window Pane’ complete with a John Squire-esque guitar solo. By the last song ‘Believer’, grown-men are being hoisted on to other grown-men’s shoulders and dancing. The clans can go home happy.