Choosing Peggy Sue as my first review for Silent Radio seemed like a safe bet having seen them a few years previously, and having followed their progress from their formation in Brighton way back in 2005. Numerous tweaks to the name, side projects, additions to the sparse line up  and the dogged determination of Rosa Rex and Katy Klaw has resulted in the 2014 version of Peggy Sue, on the road following the release of their third studio album Choir of Echoes in January. They have long moved away from the south coast city to which they are most associated and despite their willingness to experiment, it is still their soulful pitch perfect vocals for which they will always be recognised. They soon changed the atmosphere of the cold basement of the Soup Kitchen in Manchester. With barely a glance at each other they fill the room with their wondrous harmonies that capture the impressive audience for a band that has hovered on the brink of recognition far greater than this intimate venue would suggest.

The semi acoustic duo accompanied with simple percussion has been replaced with a full thumping kit from drummer Olly, and the addition of bass to bring a new depth to compliment the songwriting and vocal skills there from the bands conception. The girls, now both fully electrified, have transformed the band into a memorising ensemble of harmonies and rhythm which, although still difficult to categorise, has cast aside the indie folk label they have carried for their first two albums. This is a far more complex collaboration with exquisite tremolo guitar echoing in the background demonstrating that is more than just a blend of two wondrous voices. It would be easy to suggest that this was an effortless performance. That would be an insult to the undoubted work and passion that goes into delivering a performance of vocal quality that is not out of place in comparison to greats like The Everly’s or Righteous Brothers.

So often, such tours are designed solely to promote a new release, filled with songs no one knows, and peppered with a few hit singles. It’s no criticism when I suggest a large section of tonight’s audience were unfamiliar with the band’s back catalogue, and there are no hit singles to draw on. Regardless, it was refreshing to be treated to an array of work from each of their three albums, numerous EP’s and even even unreleased material. Songs like ‘Substitute’ and ‘Figure of Eight’ from the new album are enough to convince me to add the album to my collection, Watchman, perhaps the most recognisable song to date, has been rearranged to accommodate the new line up and delivered with new depth and feeling that brought the biggest applause of the night, and a haunting soulful cover of ‘Hit The Road Jack’ could have taken you to the deep south Mississippi in a blink of an eye, and was as good a cover of the Ray Charles classic as any I have heard.

Peggy Sue’s CV boasts support to some illustrious names, enough to suggest that they are on the brink of deserved major recognition themselves. Talk on the radio driving into Manchester tonight was of the dilemma between watching Man United in The Champions League on TV or Elbow at the whatever it is Arena, when it should have been between Elbow or Peggy Sue, they were that good. I’m pleased I made the right choice.

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Chris Hagues

Having spent half my life down south and the remainder in the north it could be argued that I'm neither here nor there, which would be a good description of where my musical taste lies, anything but middle of the road. I have spent over 30 years within media related industries, working in Fleet Street before it became just a name on the Monopoly board, in print media, broadcast media and more latterly it's virtual format. I have grasped every opportunity to pass my opinion on live music wherever you can find it, and I am at my happiest in the summer months sitting in a field basking in the sunshine listening to live bands. OK , maybe the sunshine is an exaggeration, although it's not as rare as you'd be led to believe, I've been attending UK festivals since the 70's, where you're likely to find me in the new bands tent rather than in front of the main stages. Nothing pleases me more than to see bands I have reviewed hit the big time, having first seen them in venues where you'd struggle to swing the proverbial cat.. I have lived and travelled throughout the UK but have now found my home where British music is at it's best, MANCHESTER.