The Strypes + Sugarmen

The Duchess, York

Thur May 28, 2015

The Strypes website

Walking in to the end of the Sugarmen’s set, you could be forgiven for thinking the Liverpool lads had been headlining. The packed crowd are squeezed against the barriers and are loving every minute of their indie-guitar driven pop.

Support bands rarely get the same treatment as the headliners, but then this support band are playing second fiddle to Paul Weller, Blur and The Who this year, and have shared a stage with Clash legend Mick Jones on more than one occasion.

They won't be the support for much longer… Sugarmen
They won’t be the support for much longer… Sugarmen
The Sugarmen, confusingly wearing stripes
The Sugarmen, confusingly wearing stripes

Catch them while you can, they won’t be support for much longer.

It’s nearly a full house tonight and there seems to be a three-way split in the crowd – the girls that want to be with The Strypes, pushing against the barriers at the front, desperate to get close to their teenage idols; the lads who want to be in The Strypes (see above for reasons); and erm… their parents.

The back of the room seems to be full of mums and dads who are chaperoning their kids, but good on them – better that their kids want to be here than watching some X-Factor wannabe warbling over a backing track.

The girls go mad when The Strypes finally walk on (there’s actual screaming) and go straight into Now She’s Gone.

Josh McClorey plays as if he has been in a stadium band for years
Josh McClorey plays as if he has been in a stadium band for years
The Strypes storm The Duchess
The Strypes storm The Duchess

The band look ultra-cocky – singer Ross Farrelly in a natty suit and shades looking every bit the mod, flanked by the less sartorial but no less cocky Pete O’Hanlon on bass and Josh McClorey on guitar. Behind him, another pair of shades adorns drummer Evan Walsh. So they look the part – are they any good?

Err, yes. They may only be in their teens, but their confidence is earned and well deserved. This is a very tight band – well rehearsed and technically spot on.

They must have grown up on parents’ record collections as the sound and influences come through clearly – they’re rooted in rhythm and blues, but there’s a rockier, almost punky edge to them at times which is reminiscent of Dr Feelgood and even early Manics.

At other times there’s a hint of Arctic Monkeys, and then when McClorey lets loose on the guitar, you can hear everything from Led Zeppelin to John Squire in the influences.

The young crowd loved the sound (and so did some of the mums and dads at the back)
The young crowd loved the sound (and so did some of the mums and dads at the back)

McClorey deserves special mention. Wow this guy is sure of himself. Looking like a snarling young Danny Dyer, (not sure that’s a good thing), he pulls off all the rock clichés – the foot on the monitor, the guitar in the air – playing the guitar behind his back, the snarl, the legs-apart guitar solos, getting into the crowd to let the girls get hands-on.

This kind of behaviour should really be reserved for bands that have cut their teeth (and then lost their teeth), and are now playing stadiums, not a bunch of teenagers from Ireland.

But that’s the thing – McClorey plays as if he has been in a stadium band for years – technically, he’s way up there with guitarists three times his age, even when he’s playing it behind his back. It’s little wonder that Paul Weller asked him to play on his new album. Praise indeed.

Crowd-pleasers
Crowd-pleasers
Like they've been playing together for years
Like they’ve been playing together for years
The Strypes, backstage at the Duchess
The Strypes, backstage at the Duchess

Most of the set is from new album Little Victories, although there’s also a good few from debut Snapshot.

For the most part, they’re up-tempo crowd-pleasers and it’s only when McClory indulges in a bit too much guitar-heroing mid-set that the pace drops a bit. It’s soon back to fever pitch though especially when crowd-favourite Blue Collar Jane, probably their most Feelgood-like track gets the crowd going again.

The Strypes are at their best when they’re playing the newer more original tracks which seem less influenced by the past, and set highlight for me is Best Man which powers along and sees everyone singing by the end.

There’s only one worrying moment. When the crowd (inevitably) start chanting “Yorkshire, Yorkshire”, O’Hanlon says, “We’ve played three gigs in Yorkshire and we’ve heard that every night so it’s getting a bit boring”. Maybe not the best way to talk to a proud but appreciative audience, but he’s soon forgiven as they encore with their great version of Bo Diddley’s classic You Can’t Judge A Book By Looking At The Cover, which sees Farrelly passing the mic into the audience and clearly loving the moment.

Two great bands that I doubt I’ll get the chance to see in a venue of this size for some time…