On It Like A Sonnet....
Shoot The Poet, The Princess Alice, Middlesbrough
Many an interesting meeting has taken place outside a gents' toilet.
Thankfully this time it's nothing seedy, drug-related, illegal or amorous. We're at the Princess Alice in Middlesbrough for the comeback gig of Shoot The Poet, who are supporting a fellow Hartlepool band, local legends The Jar Family. They've bounded over to say hello, all youthful and energetic. Comprising of drummer Craig - down to earth and very chatty, bassist Adam - smiley and automatically cool as all bass players are, guitarist Peter - wearing the most amazingly skinny trousers and tanned from a sojourn in Italy, and singer Dom, earnest, ponytailed and looking contemplative about the night ahead. They're chatty, friendly and down to earth. Even Phil comments on 'what a nice bunch of lads they are'. Praise indeed.
How best to describe Shoot The Poet? They have been referred to as a cross between The Killers and The Smiths but that pains me. I can see where they're coming from - however, Morrissey is an absolute 2868 and I refuse to acknowledge anything to do with him. Plus they have an added pop element. So. Imagine four of One Direction getting bitchslapped by Johnny Rotten, taught to play instruments by The Killers and The Coral, then given a lesson in cheeky charm by Frankie & The Heartstrings. Now we're getting close.
As the place fills up rapidly with a coachload of 'Poolies, the atmosphere builds and the lights go down. After a typically enthusiatic intro from Grassroute's Leon, a man who seriously knows how to work a crowd and uses lots of words like Mintboosh, it's time for Shoot The Poet to take centre stage.
And so it begins.
From the outset it's an explosion of energy, an intro followed by Family of Strangers kicking off the set and getting the crowd jigging along, hollering approval and tapping their feet. You genuinely cannot tell that the band have had a six-month hiatus. Everything is together, bright and upbeat, and you can tell that they're having fun by the cheeky grins on their faces. Catchy melodies matched in strength by Dom's vocals swirl around the room as the audience start to sing along. It's summery, fresh and a bloody brilliant opener. Through Mythical Sea, Temptress and Is This Love? the momentum builds, ebbing and flowing as the crowd get even more hyped up (seriously, they are mental) and the band settle into their stride, bringing out more of a swagger with the disappearance of any last-minute jitters.
Little By Little was the track of the night for me - inevitable I guess as it's the track I've heard the most. It soon became apparent that it wasn't just me that thought so, as the energetic lady jumping around to my left shouting 'liddleba liddleba liddleba liddleba' made me grin. She knows the score. Looking at the stage, Dom's got his power stance on and is belting out the 'liddleba's with aplomb, Peter's relentlessly on-point with the melodies and looking like he just stepped out of an Armani advert (a few months in Italy must do that to you. Must try it), Adam's looking less flustered and has that air of bass player coolness back and Craig's hammering the drums with such ferocity it makes my biceps ache just watching him. Damn they're good.
Rounding off the set with We'll Build A Church and Goodbye, it's clear to see why people love this band so much. They have incredible natural talent, a raw energy and a real likeability - we grab a chat with them outside and discuss how happy they are to be back on the scene (though the massive grins plastered over their faces said more than words ever could), the embarrassing moment when you stand on your lead and have to style it out with a slut-drop to pick it back up, and most importantly their future plans - more recording, live shows and a date with legendary BBC Tees DJ Bob Fischer. Not an actual date, obviously. That would be weird. Shoot The Poet have been unpaused. Go catch them before they fast-forward.