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Literature Thieves

– THE CASTLE HOTEL, MANCHESTER –

It’s Tuesday night, the Castle’s selection of ales are flowing and we have four acts to look forward to tonight. Billed as a co-headline show for Literature Thieves and Natalie McCool, support comes from See Emily Play and The Bear Around Your Neck.

Slowly making his way to stage, The Bear Around Your Neck, also known as Nathaniel Scott, starts by opening a beer, putting it down and picking up an already opened beer. An odd way to begin, but the whole performance is quite strange. The effect on his vocals makes him sound like he’s singing in a medieval church. I have little idea what most of the words are, and the regular attempts at singing in a low pitch just sound bizarre. I’m also unsure why he’s continually on his tip-toes to reach the microphone, rather than just lowering it.

Sheffield based See Emily Play takes to the stage next. Launching straight into opening track ‘What To Do’, her exaggerated facial expressions are endearing. She looks to be enjoying being on stage so much you can’t help but smile along. “See Emily Play is not my real name” she announces after the song, “but I am called Emily”. A second track on the acoustic guitar follows before a switch to keyboard. The rest of the performance comes from behind the keyboard. Tracks include a stripped back version of Blink 182’s ‘All The Small Things’ and her finale song ‘Miss Penelope’, which is full of attitude and my favourite of the set.

After a quick turnaround, Natalie McCool, the first of our co-headliners, takes to the stage. Immediately commanding the attention of the crowd, she opens with a version of Billy Fury’s 1960 single ‘Wondrous Place’. Singing the track with only a small amount of guitar noise as backing, her voice is perfectly nuanced. ‘Dust & Coal’ followed by ‘Fortune’, both from her self-titled debut album released back in 2012, are next up. The vocal continues to impress and the audience remains completely focussed on the performance.

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Natalie McCool

Noticing she has the full attention of the crowd, McCool decides “I’m going to take a risk” because we looked “like an audience who likes a risk”. The risk was to play ‘Dig It Out’. “I’ve never really played this one alone” she informs us, then after the song she delights that “it actually sounded better than I expected”. I’m not sure what she was expecting, but it sounded good to me. Latest single ‘Wind Blows Harder’, released earlier this week and then ‘Thin Air’ close the set. I enjoyed the performance and I expect we’ll seeing a lot more of Natalie McCool before too long.

So on to the final act of the night, Literature Thieves. They start by explaining they are just beginning work on their debut album and that tonight we’d be seeing a “very acoustic version”. First track ‘Emperor’ features slide guitar and has its charms but is still very raw. The next song doesn’t even have a name yet, demonstrating how new that one is. We’re encouraged to “Trip out in the field of life” before ‘Meadows’, but the set is already proving quite shambolic. The aforementioned flowing ale appears to have taken its toll on our final act.

There are six more songs to come, including ‘Work No More’ about wanting to stay at home and drink whisky rather than going to work. Followed immediately by ‘Rain’, about the same thing, but sometimes it’s raining when you don’t want to go to work. A lot of the songs feel a bit like drinking songs, and I get the impression the set would have been a lot of fun if we were all sat around a campfire. I’m afraid it’s not ready to headline a venue yet though.

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Adam Smith

There is nothing I'd rather be doing with my evenings than watching excellently crafted live music. In fact, there isn't much I'd rather be doing than watching half-decent live music. Having too often seen excellent bands fail to garner the attention I believe they deserve, I'm here to spread the good word of the under-appreciated musical performer. I encourage everyone who is reading this to do the same.