LIVE REVIEW: The BellRays supported by Boneshake, Sound Control Manchester, April 13th

'All in all, I felt I'd witnessed a decent band on a bad night, not all of their making ... I wouldn't let this one gig put me off... I'd watch them again, but politely ask them to leave me begging for more rather than smothering me too much all at once'

BellRays at Sound Control

The aptly named support band Boneshake were into their set and a decent crowd had already gathered when I arrived at another pleasingly cosy, Mancunian venue – Sound Control.

The lead singer had a Jim Morrison look about him and threw himself around the stage in a similar way. He was loud and shouty and I believe my bones and eardrums did actually shake! Boneshake certainly exuded an energy, but most of the crowd, apart from one long-haired moshing girl at the front, looked on somewhat bewildered. What Boneshake lacked in distinguishable vocals, they made up for in spectacle. At one point the lead singer threw himself off the stage on to the dancefloor and started gyrating around sort of, well, orgasmically for a while. Another amusing twist was the singer reading the lyrics of the final song from a note-book, presumably since it was a new song, which he hadn’t quite mastered. I didn’t mind this though as it conjured up a memory from a Stone Roses gig in 1989 when I feel sure I witnessed Ian Brown reading lyrics from a piece of paper.

Next up were the main event – the four piece band the BellRays. Research told me that the BellRays didn’t fit neatly into any particularly genre or sound, so I was intrigued to hear how this would go. Straight off the bat, they reeked ‘west coast American rock’ to me…. So I don’t know, maybe it’s impossible not to fit into a certain genre or adopt a certain sound? The fact that the lead singer – Lisa – kept insisting to the crowd that this was a rock show and we should rock out cemented this ‘west coast rock’ vibe.

The BellRays had a comfortable stage presence. The first song, ‘Black Lightning’ filled me with excitement and anticipation of the gig to come, and I was particularly impressed with the swift, seamless finger picking moves of both guitarists.

Unfortunately, from the off and for a good few tunes, there was a problem with the sound levels. The vocals were drowned out by the drums and at one point I thought I’d have to get up there and confiscate his sticks! This affected the gig quite profoundly. I realised right there and then how important the chemistry between band and audience is, especially in a small venue. The band seemed annoyed (rightly) and the audience seemed flat (understandably) oh, and of course how important it is that the sound engineer gets it right!

Lisa finally shouted to the sound engineer ‘ turn it down!’ and relief all round as musical order was restored and at last the powerful, soaring voice of Lisa could be appreciated with the tune ‘Anymore’. She has an amazing voice and belted out a stonking tune. The crowd became revitalised, moving closer to the stage. Lisa seized this new found enthusiasm by leaving the stage and mingling and singing amongst the crowd. I always think this works well. She was engaging with the crowd who needed winning over.

For a few songs that’s what she and the rest of the band managed very well, belting out rock tune after tune, but then another lull as it just went on too long. I wonder if due to the false start they felt the need to make it up to the audience, but a 17 tune set list? Too long. All in all, I felt I’d witnessed a decent band on a bad night, not all of their making. Reading some fan pages some folk had travelled far and wide for the gig, so I wouldn’t let this one gig put me off… I’d watch them again, but politely ask them to leave me begging for more rather than smothering me too much all at once and insisting on me rocking out.

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Born in London, but bred in Manchester, music is something I can't do without. I like to think I'm musically open minded enough to enjoy a range of styles (only steering clear of heavy metal and opera so far!). I particularly enjoy acoustic, lyrically rich folky music, but also love really good dance and piano house music, and tons of other stuff too numerous to mention, but I'd struggle if someone asked me for my top ten of all time! My greatest musical love when growing up ( and still today) was the music of The Smiths - Morrissey's poetic genius with Marr's outstanding guitar playing. Going to gigs is what I like to do. I'm aversive to stadium and larger gig venues ( with exception of The Albert Hall and The Ritz) though, preferring the smaller intimate venues that Manchester has to offer such as The Soup Kitchen, The Castle and Matt & Phreds to name but three.