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Pete and the Pirates, Review

Gawen Higgins relives days bygone at Deaf Institute

Written by . Published on September 27th 2011.

Pete and the Pirates, Review

“It’s 9.25 on a Thursday night in Manchester,” whispered vocalist Thomas Sanders, launching the opening night of the European tour and beginning my journey back twenty years to an age of (relative) innocence.

An era when proper indy rock bands stalked the land.

"The Pirates don’t fit this mould; they are refreshingly unpretentious and look like five mates having a bloody good time."

There was a certain nostalgia to last night’s show - ghosts of The Wedding Present, The Smiths and even Bob would have looked on approvingly - but Pete and the Pirates are aren’t just mining a boring old retro vein. 

Their sound is fresh and energetic, loaded with crashing guitars, witty lyrics and an inch-perfect delivery honed only by gigging up and down the country week in week out.

They also have a very English feel. Not in a painstaking, sometimes excruciating way (The Libertines), but in a really natural and weirdly comforting way, like watching an Ealing film or eating a Crunchie on the bus.

Energy is core to the Pirates’ performance. As much as I love The Deaf Institute as a gig venue, my only real regret was the tiny stage didn’t allow enough space for Sanders to really stretch his legs. In my mind’s eye, he would have gone off like a cross between Rob Brydon and Paul Jones from Manfred Mann. Although the spectacle of him holding back an indie pop freak-out for health and safety reasons was probably even more entertaining.

In fact, the whole line-up are a joy to watch. It would be easy to describe them as geeky – stone-washed jeans, tucked-in shirts and specs – but the word geek these days belies a certain cache, a contrivance to be cool.

The Pirates don’t fit this mould; they are refreshingly unpretentious and look like five mates having a bloody good time, buzzing from the fact the crowd were too. Their enthusiasm and wry humour was infectious. I still had a manic grin on my face 20 minutes later, halfway down Oxford Road.

“We were a bit scared to come to Manchester…we aren’t now,” said Sanders towards the end of the set.

A tight performance pulled off with humour and a humble swagger.



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