Last time I saw Tribes they were over at Academy 1 on the NME Tour, and it’s safe to say they didn’t exactly set my world on fire. I got the feeling they were a little aloof and out of their depth playing such a big room.
In hindsight I may have been a tad harsh. I’m all for second chances and this was Tribes’. Tonight’s venue, Academy 3, in my mind was right up their street. Far more intimate and with great sound, it seemed the perfect setting to see what the London four piece were really about.
Poised and ready; things didn’t exactly get off to the best of starts. The lights went down and on came ‘Cigarettes and Alcohol’. A band playing in Manchester using Oasis as their walk-on music? How very original. I cringed. Thankfully it was short lived and replaced with The Clash’s ‘London Calling’ which somewhat softened the blow and actually made me giggle - both very brave, cocky choices and ones that I hope were meant in a tongue in cheek manner.
The first thing that struck me as Johnny, Jim, Dan and Miguel hit the stage was their attire. Sadly, it screamed “we’re trying too hard”. Johnny was dressed in a kimono style jacket and Dan looked like a hipster scarecrow in red and white spotted trousers, bejewelled waistcoat and bowler hat. I’m all for dressing how you like but dressing in the dark is another thing entirely. Bring back the leather jackets and ripped jeans I say, at least then we know what we’re dealing with.
It soon became evident that the gig was going to be as rowdy as their outfits, with the incredibly young crowd moshing and throwing themselves around to opening number ‘Whenever’. A fair bit of clout came from the guitars and drums, and Johnny’s voice was stern and equally as strong as on record, which made for a pleasant surprise. There was still a sense, for me at least, that they weren’t as engaging as they could be, a little too nonchalant. Credit to them though, this was rectified - with every song they became more engaging and a definite rapport between band and crowd was felt.
It was a punchy set, with every track met with equal appreciation and participation from the crowd. They’ve blatantly got a strong, loyal fan base, and Johnny mentioned that he recognised many of the faces in the crowd. Single ‘Sappho’ seemed to step things up a gear, igniting a plethora of crowd surfers. “Do my pheromones make you happy?” they sing, and by the looks of the screaming girls; "very happy indeed" is the answer.
‘Corner of an English Field’ proved a stand out track for me, the emotive lyrics and melodious tune presenting a rawer, more affecting side, a side that was much more gratifying in my opinion. Lyrically they are ardent, with much talk of affliction, and it’s only when you really listen to the lyrics that this resonates. ‘Himalaya’ is another such track; much slower and tamer than their other offerings, showcasing pronounced guitar and flourishing drums. Stirring and rousing, with limited apathy.
It’s without doubt that Tribes' forte lies in the anthemic chorus, and much to the delight of the crowd the latter part of the set was fully loaded with them. ‘Bad Apple’ and well known singles ‘When My Day Comes’ and ‘We Were Children’ were all met with much praise and furore from the room. Johnny lapped it all up and launched himself into the crowd with the microphone, striking a pose more accustomed to the crowds at Glastonbury than Academy 2 - but nonetheless the crowd loved it.
There’s no denying Tribes have something; the main thing being a set of songs that easily act as anthems for the younger gig goer. They’re not doing anything radically different and the instrumentation isn’t mind blowing, but they do no-doubt epitomise ‘rock star’ to our younger generations.
Granted it was a vast improvement on last time I saw them, but I’m not wholly convinced they have the substance to go much further, and they might find themselves crashing and burning after the festival circuit this summer.
I shall wait with bated to see what becomes of these Camden trendies. Let’s hope they fare better than The Kooks did.
Words: Michelle Lloyd
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