The House Of Love make an emotional return to Liverpool, Getintothis’ Andy Kelly revels among the devotees and is left wanting more once again.
‘Terry Bickers pisses all over Johnny Marr,‘ shouts the man over to my right excitedly.
It’s a bit unnecessary but it’s a sign of the emotions which the House of Love‘s legendary guitarist and the rest of his band inspire in their devotees.
For many among tonight’s 150-odd Sunday night crowd, this is far more than just another gig. It’s about unfinished business.
Many probably didn’t get the chance to see the original band before Bickers had packed it in back on the cusp of the 90s when they were burdened with indie music’s ‘next big thing’ tag. Songwriter and frontman Guy Chadwick kept things going for the next three years but for the House of Love the moment had passed.
Given Chadwick and Bickers’ notoriously fractious relationship, a reunion always seemed most unlikely, yet here we are.
The new album, She Paints Words in Red, released this month is the second since the comeback and now a UK tour is allowing many fans to catch up with a band who just left them too soon.
You can tell that many just didn’t believe they’d ever get this chance again.
Decked out in matching black shirts, the four-strong band seem relaxed as they open with Low Black Clouds from the new record and Chadwick shares footie banter with the front row.
For a man who has been through depression and, if the stories are to be believed, copious drug use, Bickers looks astonishingly fresh, like the last 20 years never really happened.
‘We love coming here,’ laughs Chadwick, ‘It always feels like we’ve walked into a film.‘
Old favourites Hope and Road are among the early highlights as is new song Hemingway, where some lovely harmonies offer more than a nod to Simon and Garfunkel.
It’s the arrival of first genuine classic of the night, the visceral I Don’t Know Why I Love You, that prompts the Marr comparison and it’s followed instantly by a second in The Beatles and the Stones, as an intense Chadwick remembers how ‘they made it good to be alone‘.
The new songs fit effortless into the set, bearing that customary House of Love mix of gorgeous melody, prosaic verses and just a hint of pretension.
She Paints Words in Red, is almost House of Love by numbers yet if it is so easy why can’t anyone else sound like this?
Holy River has a classic timeless feel before the main set ends with an astonishing Love in A Car, where Bickers’ beautiful, lonely, high-pitched guitar refrain morphs into a full-on blast of indie rock. The song of the night by a long way.
A brief encore begins with Destroy the Heart – a song so good it once topped a Peel Festive 50 – before Shine On almost sneaks up on us before rolling back the years with its almost heart-breaking ‘so young… just 18’ chorus line.
And then, all too soon as usual, they’re gone again, leaving us of course wanting more – it’s always been their way.
No Christine, no Girl With The Loneliest Eyes yet still one of the best sets of songs you’ll hear in the city all year.
Picture by Getintothis’ Gaz Jones.