LIVE REVIEW: Tom Hingley Band and Aziz & Dal, Ruby Lounge Manchester, 21st April

'They are a punky, rocky, bluesy band with attitude (good attitude) and an injection of indie'

Tom Hingley band

The Ruby Lounge is certainly a versatile venue. I’ve been three times now: once to see a play, once for Mrs Boon’s brilliant tea party (such a shame that came to an end!)  and tonight to watch another ex-Inspiral Carpets member – Tom Hingley in ‘The Tom Hingley Band’. I’ve not made my mind up about the slightly perplexing, not one thing nor another, got a weird seating area, venue,  but once the music kicked in none of that mattered. The purpose of the gig was a live airing of ‘The Tom Hingley Band’s’ charity single ‘Beggar’s Hand’ – a 7” vinyl which was released on Record Store Day, proceeds from which will go to Liverpool community initiative, Hope Fest, and the Manchester-based Lifeshare, both of which support homeless people in both cities. Donations were taken from guest list entries for the cause too; a stellar idea. On announcing ‘Beggar’s Hand’, Tom explained that proceeds were to support the homeless, who, “are all our brothers and sisters….and there by the grace of God go we” A poignant moment as we reflected on the shocking increase in the number of homeless people we are seeing in both Manchester and Liverpool. ‘Beggars Hand’ is a powerful tune with epic rises and falls in guitar and drums. It’s a rock tune, leading Tom and bass guitarist, Ste Pearce to put down some fine ‘guitar-off’ moves.

At first, the crowd seemed a little flat. We had just arrived fresh from the news of the untimely and shocking passing of Prince, so perhaps this had a part to play in our reticence to get cosier with the band, or maybe it was something to do with the age demographic of the crowd, keen not to inflict yet more damage to their hearing after years of clubbing, therefore hanging back from the speakers! Tom urged the crowd not to be shy, but move closer to the stage for the B-side of Beggar’s Hand – ‘Toy’. This was one of my favourite elements of the gig. Lately, I’ve been to gigs of great upcoming bands, but lack of experience means banter with the crowd has been absent, which for me, is such an important element of a live gig. Tom’s an old hat at this and chatted amiably in-between tunes with the crowd.

The other refreshing thing he did was announce the name of the tunes! Again, it seems de rigueur for younger, upcoming bands not to do so. I explained this to my companion who wasn’t initially convinced of my argument that ‘older’ – ahem- more experienced – bands always announce their track names, which of course, Tom did. This being the case, it’s tempting to take you through each and every tune! I’ll resist, but hopefully give a flavoursome smattering of their sound. They are a punky, rocky, bluesy band with attitude (good attitude) and an injection of indie, and wait for it, decipherable lyrics! Hooray!! At last! Anyone reading any of my previous reviews will know indiscernible lyrics is a serious bugbear of mine!  And with lyrics such as ”ever seen bottles of piss at the side of the motorway?” and, “how much is too much and how much is not enough?” from the tune ‘White Sheep’ lyrics intrigue, so I can’t understand why bands wouldn’t want us to hear them. The set ended with the slower, more indie vibe of ‘Prodigal Son’ followed by ‘Glory Days’ a tune about being a fan of a band….a great idea for a song.

Aziz and Dal

Aziz and Dal were the next part of the evening’s collective. Wow! These two really blew me away. My words here will in no way convey the affect they had on me and, clearly, the crowd as judged by the whooping and cheering that followed each of their tunes. Aziz and Dal are very different. Aziz on a pinkish electric guitar and Dal – a tabla drums virtuoso. The simplicity of a duo and the uniqueness of the tabla instrument accompanied with a novel, expert way of playing electric guitar is what makes these two stand out from the same old same old.

Describing themselves as an Asian blues duo, their set started with a tune that sounded like a fusion of Indian, Pakistani, Bhangra and electronica all blended into one exquisite mix. Aziz played electric guitar superbly, effortlessly and inventively, plucking the strings with his tongue at one point and removing his guitar lead at another to prang the frets, but far from being gimmicky, it added to their individual style. Dal’s tabla playing was a hypnotising pleasure to the ears and eyes. The music was so mesmerizingly enticing, I found myself almost floating towards the stage in a semi-trance like state. Suddenly, I was very far away from this slightly awkward Mancunian venue, transported to the Himalayan foothills or some similar exotic location far, far away. The first tune ended to be met by rapturous applause – the crowd loved them and in an unconceited way, Aziz and Dal could feel this love and fed off it as the chemistry between band and crowd was tangible. Aziz rarely took his eyes of the crowd resulting in an intoxicating stage presence. The chemistry between the two musicians was clear too, but unspoken – a look and telepathically, one knew what the other needed.

Whilst they retained their exotic edge the second tune brought a nod to the connection with the Stone Roses as the chords of ‘Love Spreads’ could be gently heard under the beat of the tabla drums. Frustratingly, there were serious problems with the sound, which took a long time to resolve, but undeterred and remaining in good spirits Aziz and Dal ploughed on playing creative arrangements of ‘Fool’s Gold’ and Ian Brown’s ‘My Star’ much to the delight of the crowd who were enjoying the massive dollop of Mancness.

In total, there were four bands on – The Blackpool based ‘The Atmospherics’, which I heard good stuff about after the gig and the Inspiral Carpets tribute band – the Kar-pets fronted by The Man Himself – Tom. It was a top night out for a good cause.

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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.