Review: Slow Club – The Ruby Lounge, Manchester

When the Sheffield duo of Rebecca Taylor and Charles Watson first got together as Slow Club, it was at the time of Arctic Monkeys ‘hype’, as lad-indie sweeped down from their hometown and our beloved North, to take over the UK.

Slow Club however took it upon themselves to get the ‘eck away from all this, and in 2009 cracked out a fantastic debut effort – Yeah, So. It was folk-pop at it’s best, combining post-adolescent questions about love with vibrant and charming vocals, backed with sometimes lightly-strummed, sometimes thrashed, guitars.

Then two weeks ago, they released their second record – Paradise. A record pulsating with grander sounds, bigger instruments, seasoned vocals and a ton of maturity…it’s a step away from their folky past, but there are definitely still elements of Yeah, So kicking about…and they’ve chosen to keep the best elements as well.

And on this busy night in Manchester-town, we had the great pleasure of popping down to see how their new tracks would go down live. Opening up was the lovely and folky Warrington-based Chi Limpiroj, followed by the acoustically bouncy, if not somewhat awkwardly-nervous-looking, Sweet Baboo. And then on came Rebecca and Charles….joined this time by drummer and bassist (who happened to be a far more comfortable looking Sweet Baboo!)

They launched into it, smashing out the bold, brash and beautiful Where I’m Waking with some almighty muscle! One aspect that was immediately noticeable was how much the duo’s vocals have improved and strengthened. Rebecca’s voice flowed from notes high and low with ease, whilst the harmonies from Charles on the likes of Our Most Brilliant Friends created a sound much finer than on the record.

And this was made evident further, when they took to the mic to play five of their most stunning tracks back-to-back. Starting with Never Look Back, a gorgeous and soulful five minutes that displayed all the finest qualities that the pair have adopted since Yeah, So. Next was the chiefly-Charles orientated Horses Jumping….the final track from their second album and a triumph in atmospheric song-writing. I Was Unconscious, It Was A Dream and Beginners followed beautifully, before the Sheffielders blasted out Hackney Marsh, a breathtakingly harmonious number, equipped with a lovely little sax-solo n’ all!

And during all this, Rebecca and Charles made everyone feel as if they were our best pals, giggling and conversing with what they stated to be their ‘largest crowd so far’.

Slow Club’s encore was nothing far from exquisite as well. Re-joining us with Two Cousins, their first single from the new record, the twosome showed how a damn fine pop song should be made. And show-closer, an acoustic, non-mic, pratically-in-the-crowd performance of Christmas TV was to die for. Sending people home with a massive grin on their face was clearly the intention…and my goodness did it work. As we chanted together and dreamt of stepping out of the gig into a winter wonderland, Slow Club drew the night the night to a close with emphatic grace and and charm.

One is aware that ‘folkiness’ was somewhat lacking from this performance….but essentially, who cares? It was a performance that combined intensity as well as sweetness, soul as well as spice, and a wondering of what is next to come from the unstoppable force that is, the gracious duo of Slow Club.

Dom Kay