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introThe Water Rats - King’s Cross, London, United Kingdom
27th January 2014
Exit Calm

Hailing from Barnsley, Yorkshire, EXIT CALM are currently touring in support of excellent new album ‘The Future Isn’t What It Used To Be’ and riding high on critical acclaim, good, solid reviews and the growing question of why aren’t they huge yet? And squeezing into a sold-out Water Rats, a cross between a boxy mini-theatre complete with recently collapsed ceiling, and a living room, may prove to be last chance to see them in such, er, intimate surroundings.

Minutes before stage time, singer Nicky Smith is milling around in the audience, pint in hand, chatting away and appearing like a man who’s come to watch his favourite band, not one about to perform. But this casual air is soon shed once he prowls and glowers on the tiny stage. Here he looks more like someone who would shout at his cornflakes for being too soggy. It’s proper frontman stuff and could lazily be compared to both Ian Brown and Richard Ashcroft in their prime. As a band, they look complete, drummer Scott Pemberton powering his way energetically through the set, Simon Lindley on bass grooving and moving like a young Peter Hook to the left, and moody VELEVET UNDERGROUND-coiffured guitarist Rob Marshall squeezed to stage left. And they make an almighty racket.


The aptly named ‘Rapture’ starts the show, a huge beast of a song, chest-beatingly epic and yet graceful and elegant underneath all the bluster. And it instantly makes clear the only problem the band will have tonight. Their songs are simply too big for a venue this size, like trying to contain a house-fire in a matchbox. But no matter. When Mr Smith’s voice cracks occasionally and you suspect he’s struggling to hear himself, it’s fine, because it’s all part of the passion. This is a proper For Real gig, and the audience are clearly on board from the first note to the last. ‘Fiction’ and ‘Albion’, from the new album follow ‘Rapture, and are of a similar towering stature, bursting confidently in waves, a sonic maelstrom that is completely engulfing. First single ‘Higher Learning’ gets a much welcomed airing, and the menacing intro to latest single ‘Promise’ soon explodes into life with some breathtakingly good guitar, and an understated and powerful vocal from Nicky Smith, eyes closed throughout, lost in the grandeur of it all.


To remind us how thrilling first album ‘Exit Calm’ was, the impossibly vast wall of sound that is ‘Hearts And Minds’ thunders out, rattling the crappy old chandeliers and seeing an army of happy fists punching the air. Its glorious, arrogant swagger is an absolute joy to be a part of. Change of pace ‘Higher Bound’ let’s everyone take a breather, before ‘Forgiveness’ sweeps in majestically and lifts everyone off their feet again. There’s not a weak point or a saggy moment in the whole performance. Exit calm have already proven themselves to be an accomplished band, quality song-writing matched with the kind of self-belief and thrilling live performances that should surely see them rise to the top in 2014. This gig, in a small room on a Monday night, will hopefully be something everyone present, the band included, look back on and remember as an ‘I was there’ moment. A rare thing these days. /


01. Rapture
02. Fiction
03. Albion
04. We’re On Our Own
05. Higher Learning
06. Promise
07. Open Your Sky
08. Hearts And Minds
09. Holy War
10. Higher Bound
11. Forgiveness

Music: 9
Performance: 9
Sound: 6
Light: 7
Total: 9 / 10


All pictures by Stephen Kennedy

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