The Subways are on the edge. Not quite under or over the top. I’m sure they’re not named after every office worker’s favourite sandwich, but this was good Saturday night entertainment for hard rock fans, and fans of more commercial rock alike. It certainly beat watching the final of Britain’s Got Talent, which singer Bily Lunn mentions before launching into “Celebrity”.
Lunn certainly has a powerful set of lungs! He can scream as well as Black Francis (although he doesn’t do this enough), but equally can sing as cleanly and clearly as our very own James Dean Bradfield. There is a basic rock’n’roll feel throughout, but sometimes simplicity, when done well enough, can work. They get the crowd clapping along; everyone is having a good time.
There are several obvious influences – never a bad thing. The opening track reminds me of The Gallows’ “Orchestra Of Wolves”. “Turnaround”, with its repeat of “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah” is surely taken directly from The Wedding Present song “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah”! It’s the same sequence of notes, just with one less “Yeah”!
The tone changes for “a song about mum”, which is less angry, more of a pop song, but we’re spared from sentimentality. The pivotal track is still “Rock’n’roll Queen” – played right in the middle of the set – a track so powerful that you really wonder how the band can ever again emulate this in terms of perfection. It’s a shame though that they seemed to have stopped trying, songs from the forthcoming third album not quite hitting the mark. If you’ve got one fantastic stand-out tune, you’ve gotta try and muster up another equal masterpiece, I think, instead of settling for second best efforts. Just look at the Sex Pistols – is “Anarchy in the UK”, the debut, the best, or is it “God Save The Queen”, or is it “Pretty Vacant”?
I wonder about the longevity of a band like this. How long can they continue with the simple approach? They have a strong image – two guys, and a striking blond bassist is always going to be a winning combination – but can they keep it going? But then again, I’m always surprised by how long some bands have continued. Look at The Charlatans, they’ve probably never topped early single, “The Only One I Know”, but they’ve still kept going, producing many more quality tunes, with maybe a bit more variety helping. Another band, The Bluetones (as with The Charlatans, entirely unlike The Subways in style terms) who I’m handed a flyer for on the way out, have also defied the odds with their sustainability.
I was about to give the award for best performance on the night to the audience, who were certainly geared up. Just the one stage diver, but consistently lively throughout. Until in the encore when singer Billy, launches himself, first from the stacked up speakers on the side of the stage, and then, amazing everyone, from the venue’s balcony into the waiting crowd below. As people cheered, I thought I heard a cynical cry of “I hope he hurt himself”, and I looked around for the clearly jealous idiot.
As I was leaving, I watched as streams of sweat poured off people teeming out. This was enough to convince me that people had had a great time. I’d stood at the back for the most part, and so was comparatively dry, despite the heat. Leaving this gig without being covered in sweat was about as uncool as coming back from Ibiza with a suntan.