Hunter & The Bear finished off a storming sold out UK tour in Liverpool and Getintothis’ Peter Goodbody was witness to a cracker of a gig on a less than hospitable night outside.
Tonight was all about hair. And Nickelback. But we knew that was going to be the case.
Hunter & The Bear have sold out just about every date on this tour and deservedly so. Their American style guitar based rock first grabbed us at Best of the West in the summer and, in doing the research for that piece, we were more than a little pleased to learn they had a Liverpool date already inked in.
It was clear we weren’t the only ones either. There were lots of Hunter & The Bear t-shirts in evidence among the crowd at Studio 2. This is a band with a decent pedigree already and we’d think their star will shine brighter after this tour.
The hair fest kicked off with The Buffalo Riot. A Liverpool based five piece who gave us half an hour so of classy, polished rock.
They joked they’re hard core punk gone wrong – an odd concept whichever way you try and twist it. What we got was an impressive advert for their forthcoming album, due out early next year.
Set closer These Are The Days is the band’s next single and, as a snapshot of what the band can do, is a perfect fit. This is not music for a cold wet Liverpool night. It’s music for the beach or a barbecue party. It’s unashamedly Springsteen, Tom Petty and, yes, Nickelback.
The derision heaped on Nickelback isn’t one we necessarily subscribe to and they’re certainly a reference point that’s difficult to ignore when you listen to Hunter & The Bear’s recent release – Paper Heart. We say that as a compliment. We really do.
They have all the required ingredients. Lots of hair. Lots of guitars. Lots of pedal boards. Lots of screaming. And the tunes to go with it.
When they stroll onto the small stage, Studio 2 is perhaps not as rammed as we thought it might be. Maybe the weather put some people off. Nevertheless, here are the faithful wanting to be entertained. And for an hour that’s what happened. It’s not especially sophisticated or ground breaking, but by any reasonable standards with which you care to measure them it works and it works well.
They kick off at a pace. And they’re three tracks in before taking breath.
“How you doing Liverpool?” Asks lead Hunter, Will Irvine after a rousing Paper Heart. “We’ve been here before and it’s good to be back. Only problem is when we play here we put Steven Gerrard on the guest list and he won’t fucking come. Still, we guess that’s fine by about half of you.”
Actually, Irvine is about the only one here who didn’t get the memo about hair. He looks more like he should be one fifth of a well groomed boy band rather than in a group with his long haired mates. A well styled short back and sides doesn’t seem to fit in with the whole tenor of the night.
He’s got the moves, though. And the voice. It’s a powerful instrument in its own right and it would be absurd if Irvine wasn’t in a rock band. To waste a voice like Irvine’s in a 9 to 5 would be criminal. Thank goodness he got that memo.
Jet and I Am What I Am slowed the pace a touch but they’re both powerful ballads and just the kind of mid-set cooler required. Thereafter it was back to what Hunter & The Bear do best. Paper Heart’s opening track You Can Talk signalling the run in to a frenetic second half of what was by now turning into a really enjoyable set.
Newly released single Skin Tight was one of the few new songs to make an appearance tonight and it genuinely seemed to have given the band a boost by reaching no 2 in the iTunes rock chart. A slow burner perhaps compared with the opening salvo, but it fits in just fine.
Then it was a sprint to the line with a trio of album highlights including the quite brilliant Won’t You Ever Come Home. This was one of the ones that stuck with us from seeing the band in Scotland in the summer and it was no less powerful here tonight. DRK maybe the band’s heaviest track and had a wicked bass solo to kick it off.
Last song of the set – Nickajack – also closed out the Paper Heart album. We’ll give you just one guess as to who we think it sounds like. A thunderstorm of guitars competing with Irvine’s voice as though they were trying to outdo each other in a much bigger arena – Wembley, say. It would not have been out of place.
The quasi encore, Renegade (the band didn’t leave the stage) was the epitome of what we came to see. As Irvine roared the chorus “Whoa I wanna be a better man” the crowd responded in kind. We were disappointed not see a sea of cigarette lighters held aloft.
Yeah, it was that kind of gig. Feel good road trip Americana from two bands who do it just bang on and have the hair to go with it. Just a pity it was pissing down as we wandered out into the cold November night in search of a cab. That didn’t feel so good.
Just one question, though. Why the spoon on Hunter & The Bear’s pedal board?