Live Review: Sheafs + Narrow Margins, Manchester

While being older certainly has its comforts and benefits, I can often define the bands I see live on 3 levels; whether they don’t move me, whether they make me wish I was young or whether they actually do make me younger. With the line up of Narrow Margin, Matter of Mind, and SHEAFS at Manchester Jimmys, I drank more than a drop of the elixir of youth (and quite a quantity of Jimmys honey IPA too) and all three emotions came to the fore at one time or another.

First up were what are probably the least experienced of the trio, Narrow Margin, a five piece from Hyde Manchester. While this band have been about since 2017, it has perhaps been a relaxed pace and Spotify boasts just one single from the band, the recently released Oxford Street.

I like it when its clear a band have thought about their stage presence, and here all three bands had a distinct style which fitted their music. SHEAFS have a “take me as I am” attitude, Matter of Mind had a gothic feel, while Narrow Margin had an early 80’s feel, particularly with lead singer Ian Spiller and his skinny mod look, striking white eye make up and series of badges down his guitar strap, particularly the one which read “Coal not Dole” which took me back a generation. His Manic Street Preachers tour sweatshirt was another statement of intent and I immediately felt comfortable in these guys company.

The set did not disappoint with a series of fast paced, quality sharp stripped back early new wave style music. I got a vibe for early Jam perhaps and the band certainly fit well alongside other promising young upstarts like Callow Youth. However, Narrow Margin were not simply one trick ponies, and I loved the massed guitar and bass combo (as I usually do) and the power this gives a live performance. Interestingly, the guitars did not form a wall of sound as there were differences in style giving an unanticipated complexity to the tunes. In fact so absorbed into the guitar plucking was I, at the end of the gig, I very foolishly spoke with Jordan Lambert the lead singer of Matter of Mind who was setting up rather than packing away, to tell him how much I had enjoyed the set, because I hadn’t actually scanned all the faces of the band. Jordan gave me a good humoured and surprised “Thanks mate”, while I realised my faux pas. I wouldn’t blame Jordan in the slighest if he had added the legend “tosser”.

Never come out with me to see a band, dear reader, I will never fail to embarass. Detail is not my middle name.

With Narrow Margin, there was also a good mix of tempo with the lead vocalist sitting down for one of the tracks. While there’s clearly much still to come from Narrow Margin it was a thoughtful and assured performance.

Talking of assurred, we were treated to a masterclass in confidence from young band Matter of Mind (despite my inadvertently doing my very best to piss off the lead singer), with a very complex mix of guitar and electronic overlay.

I also noticed the tin of soup in proud position on stage; a weird band mascot (and a useful tasty one if needs ever must).

I do have to admit that the overall Matter of Mind sound was just a little too showy rock for this particular punter, but I did marvel at the excellent vocals of lead singer Jordan, and while Matter of Mind didn’t totally float me away personally, I could certainly fully appreciate why this band are highly regarded and tipped and why most of the audience was really getting into the set.

Finally, it was the turn of Sheffield’s very own SHEAFS. I’ve seen and loved the live energy in SHEAFS perhaps 6 times over the past couple of years, although I guess as is sensible, they vary the level of wild abandon depending on just how hard the audience are doing their nut. This time around, it was a slightly sedate perhormance from the band although it was clear they were delighted to be back on stage. SHEAFS are a band that come to you wherever you are in the audience and I love the up close and personal approach.

While it was fabulous to hear the guys do a run through of the by now standard set, I was just slightly disappointed there were no new songs to savour. It has to be said that with single Shock Machine in 2018, and Get Used To It in 2019, Sheafs have hardly dropped a heap of new stuff onto their adopring public in the past 20 months or so. While there is something about the term “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”, I am pleased therefore that Sheafs explained after this mini series of dates their forthcoming next tour will have a set evolving for the future. Keeping it fresh will keep my interest.

To close it was time to enjoy and feel young to the wonderful SHEAFS signature tune This Is Not A Protest. I could skip to the train and home knowing I’d witnessed some of the finest music from the north.

Chris R

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