Before I go any further I just want to say how much I love the city of Manchester. I visit fairly regularly and the vibe up there is amazing and it’s a great place to go and watch live music, the scene is really thriving. So Manchester thank you for your hospitality, and for always showing this Black Country boy nothing but love.
Now that I’ve got my little love letter out of the way I’ll get into why I was actually back in Manchester, and that was to go and check out a band who go by the name Cruel Kingdom. This gig was a bit of a random one as I had never heard of the band before I was asked to go and review the show so apart from one track everything was new to me, it was a complete unknown. The show was set up to launch the band’s new EP Have You Heard which is out now, and which I will be reviewing very soon.
Hailing from the good city of Manchester Cruel Kingdom are Henry Beach (Vocals, bass)Sam Capper (Keyboards, vocals) and Jack Kennedy (Drums, percussion). Trying to pin the band’s sound down to a single genre is like trying to light a fire with nothing but a bucket of water… utterly pointless. The trio shift between Jazz, Funk, Rock, Indie and even a little bit of really old school R&B when the mood takes them. The upshot of that is of course that not only is their music very interesting style-wise it carries one hell of a groove which makes it a big hit live.
It was brilliant to see The Factory packed out on the night in question and the band delivered a headline set to remember. Smooth melodies and thick funky basslines were the order of the day and I along with pretty much everyone else in the room couldn’t help but move their feet. The guys had a great rapport with the audience and those in attendance reciprocated in kind with ovation after ovation.
There were so plenty of highlights but I’ll try and pick out a few. The only song that I had heard from the band before was Not Just Killing Yourself which features on the new record and it sounded fantastic. To describe the group’s covers of Billie Jean and Seven Nation Army as merely ‘crowd-pleasing’ would be to do them a massive disservice. Both were brilliantly up tempo and the Jackson cover especially was given a new lease of life by the band’s keyboard heavy style. Each of the songs was given a totally new spin and were rapturously received.
Kennedy’s drum solo towards the end of the set was top class while the other of the band’s originals which really impressed me was a track called Tell Me. Again it features on the new EP and it’s slower pace just emphasised it’s smooth as silk nature and helped the audience get a breath in before the band clicked into top gear once more. A good flow to a set or performance is absolutely vital in holding the audience’s attention and Cruel Kingdom pulled that off very well.
The encore as you would expect was met with a thunderous reception as the band launched into a quick-fire rendition of the Isley Brothers classic Shout.
I don’t know how the night felt for fans of the band but I can only say that as someone seeing and hearing the band’s music for basically the first time I was hugely impressed. I love the way that they bend and twist genres and styles with great panache and aren’t afraid to make music which isn’t what you’d hear on the radio. I really enjoyed the trio’s performance and everyone that I passed on the way to the exit had a smile on their face so you can’t ask for any more than that.
In short, if Cruel Kingdom are ever in your town go and check them out, especially if you’re looking for something with a smooth old school groove.
It was a fine headline performance from a damn fine band.