Fused has more reason than most to celebrate the opening of the brand new HMV Institute. Although the renovated venue, rising from its former incarnation as the beloved Sanctuary and Barfly, is an exciting development for the city’s students and music-lovers, it also happens that it’s a mere stone’s throw away from the Fused offices.
The Institute opened its doors late last month, and has welcomed the likes of Mark Ronson, Kelis and Guillemots’ frontman Fyfe Dangerfield to the stage before we even visit in the first week of October. The ensuing lineup into early 2011 speaks for itself, so we can only look forward to bopping to some of the world’s best bands into the next year and beyond. Before that though, it’s to the main room – which feels as spacious yet comfy as before, complete with balconies and TWO bars – for two back-to-back weeknight gigs.
Since ‘Foundations’ took her quaint yet ‘bittah’ verse to the top spot, Kate Nash has occupied a love her/hate her space in modern music. New album ‘My Best Friend is You’ makes no apologies for being brasher than her debut, and so Nash may have lost more fans in the changeover to a punkier sound. Still, the devotees – primarily gals accompanied by boyfriends and gay BFFs – are out in force to witness Nash play up to her new ‘riot grrrl’ image on Wednesday 6 October. Doe she convince?
Opener ‘I Just Love You More’ sets the tone, keyboard usurped by low-slung guitar and snarling drawl. The fierce persona is adopted in fits and starts, with Nash finding time to sit at her keys and deliver odes to mouthwash and eating cheese on toast in between delivering shouty chick rock and spitting out the baffling feminist rant that forms Act I of ‘Mansion Song’. The uneasy alliance between old and new makes for an uneven gig, one likely to fail in winning over many naysayers, but there’s no denying Nash’s commitment and a newfound confidence in her work. Whether striding around the stage at the forefront of her all-male band or stomping on her keyboard for finale ‘Pumpkin Soup’, all eyes are on this brassy redhead occupying the modest-sized stage with something to say.
The atmosphere created by Thursday night’s headliners is in direct contrast to the ramshackle energy that pulls Nash’s set through. Not for Hurts is bolshy, lo-fi, buttoned-down gal rock; nope, their set is as sharp and precise as one of lead singer Theo’s suits. The sweaty joie de vivre of Nash’s gig is replaced by a different kind of euphoria, one more generally favoured by shoegazers and Morrissey fans. It’s worth noting that the mixed crowd drawn into the venue’s warm embrace include bevvied-up lads’ lads, pretty young things, and gay men of all shapes and sizes.
This ragtag bunch of misfits has likely been hooked since ‘Wonderful Life’ creeped on to playlists and into hearts last month. The happy-sad smash is here dispensed with three songs in, showing the duo’s confidence in the songs on their debut album ‘Happiness’. Throw in an endorsement by Kylie, repaid here by a deliciously twisted take on the pop princess’s ultra-cred moment ‘Confide In Me’, and the Hurts hype is high. Theo and synth player Adam are joined by players on drums and guitar, as well as a smartly-dressed gent playing statue until ‘Illuminated’ reveals him to be an opera singer of some considerable power. It’s a highlight amidst the finely crafted Depeche Mode-style electronic pop, and the Mancs receive a rapturous response from us Brummies throughout. New single ‘Stay’ is bound to be a hit thanks to an earworm of a singalong chorus, and finale ‘Better Than Love’ ups the tempo for a send-off approaching Presets-esque rave. Overall, the band’s showing is not quite so good it hurts, but they’re well on their way to causing some pleasant discomfort.