Tonight, The Hope & Ruin channels the spirit of the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond circa ’63, where The Rolling Stones cut their teeth and made their name. The upstairs bar is a hodgepodge of Mod hairstyles, paisley silk shirts, Fred Perry polos and skinny cravats, the scene of a mini rock ‘n’ roll revival in honour of this evening’s 60s-indebted headline act Hidden Charms.
Before they arrive, Brighton band Teetotum get the room toasty with an evocative rock tour de force. Sounding like The Everlys backed by Pete Townshend & co, the quartet are all about gritty riffs, three-part harmonies that echo The Fab Four and earworming hooks that feel instantly familiar. Set highlight ‘Just My Luck’ is their formula at its most infectious, echoing Hamburg-era Beatles but with a modern twist in the vein of noughties garage rock revivalists Caesars.
Next, much-hyped Kent trio The Bay Rays make a lasting impression with a thunderous stint that recalls some of modern rock’s biggest bands. Elements of Biffy Clyro, Muse, The White Stripes and Royal Blood are present in their singles so far, which are all aired tonight: ‘Four Walls’ recalls Kings of Leon in their youthful drug-addled heyday, ‘New Home’ is like The Vaccines playing with their lives on the line and ‘Satisfaction’ (dedicated to the “weekend warriors”) bridges the gap between Arctic Monkeys old and new. The consistent component is frontman Harry Nicoll’s distinctive voice, which hints at both Caleb Followill and Justin Young, but is something that stands out on its own.
Then come bill-toppers Hidden Charms, who take things to the next level with an electrifying stint. The Londoners are undeniably gripping right from the get-go, taking to the stage and launching into something blues-soaked from last year’s EP ‘Harder From Here’. Brimming with bravado, the foursome look every bit like Jagger’s untamed prodigies: drummer Oscar Robertson pouts in a Sgt. Pepper jacket, guitarist Josh Lewis maintains an icy cool demeanour amid the mayhem, keys man Ranald Macdonald is wrapped up in a feather boa flirting with girls in the front row and lead singer Vincent Davies does a cocksure strut with half a smile and half a snarl across his face.
It’s not just rock ‘n’ roll posturing though, the band’s incredible live execution of the Hidden Charms back catalogue wholly justifies their swagger: ‘Left Hand Man’ is like The Black Keys covering The Kinks‘ ‘Sunny Afternoon’ in a fog of joss stick smoke, ‘Cannonball’ recalls David Bowie‘s ‘DJ’ with added T. Rex falsetto hooks as The Hope & Ruin‘s moon-like mirrorball spins in the background and closer ‘I Just Wanna Be Left Alone’ draws the set to an emphatic and ramshackle crescendo of cymbals, caterwauling guitars and frantic percussion.
The effect is exhilarating and as we descend the steps from the venue to the street below, we know we’ve seen something truly special. Hidden Charms, one of the most intense and exciting live acts in the country right now.