It’s hard not to feel a puff of pride as a reviewer when a band you’ve championed from an early stage in their career prove you right. And so it is with We Could be Astronauts, whose first live show was covered in these very pages in August 2010. Back then, yours truly declared the band a revelation and that they’d be going places.
Having gigged hard around the country and performed on the BBC Introducing stage at T in the Park this year, they’ve managed to drum up enough of a fanbase to fund the production of their debut album and tonight’s hometown launch event is as much a celebration of a gig. A veritable extravaganza’s promised by way of thanks for the support, and that’s just what they deliver, with ‘Flash Gordon’ and ‘Button Moon’ screening on the ceiling, miniature planets suspended from the lights and glowing helium-filled balloons tied to many of the chairs. The stage, then, is set.
Van der Neer, prove a quality opening act, melding soulful vocals to a solid rhythm section to deliver a set that’s hard to argue with. Next up, La Petite Mort, whose sound resembles a Curesque take on shoegaze with elements of Suede. It’s perhaps fairest to say they showed masses of potential despite a stylistic lack of focus and iffy presentation.
But tonight it’s all about We Could be Astronauts, who hit the stage at full throttle with ‘The Volunteer’ and power through a good chunk of the album in no time. It’s clear they’re pumped up, and so’s the volume – just the way it should be. The twin guitar assault, coupled with full-on driving bass throb threatens to drown out the drums, but as they tear through established favourites including ‘Fucked Up, Corroded, Broke Down Exploded’ they remain as tight as hell. As ever, Robert Hughes is the main focal point: not only does he possess a great voice but he’s also a charismatic front man. The bottom line is that a quality act, and what’s more, they’re a proper rock band, in the traditional sense, and their inclusion of a cover of Black Sabbath’s ‘War Pigs’ gives a fair indicator of where they’re coming from. While many lesser bands would have slaughtered it, Astronauts do the song justice and really drive it home to conclude the first of their two sets of the evening.
After a short time out for the punters to recharge their glasses and for the band to change outfits – they’re all about the style, these guys, and moreover, they manage to work up quite a sweat – they’re back for their second set, this time augmented by a portable string section consisting of violin and cello for the first few numbers as the band kick out a deft rendition of The Beatles’ ‘Norwegian Wood’ power through more original material. Amidst a riot of bubbles and confetti, ‘The Catastrophist’ and ‘Look Frank, It’s a Toaster’ stand out as future classics, before they conclude with an epic ‘Good as Gone’.
They even treat us to an impromptu encore of a new song that may only be half-finished but still sounds great. Here’s hoping album number two doesn’t take as long – although if there’s any justice they’ll need a bigger venue to launch it.