Anticipation and spirits are high walking down into the bowels of The Ruby Lounge, the slight smell of beer and piss is accompanied by the broken noise of first support Ablebody. Sadly this is a somewhat deflating start, the adolescent-ish American three-piece either write music with added jarring and screeching or they have been wilfully sabotaged by the sound technician. Despite being competent and endearing enough, they struggle to overcome these issues and the crowd looks on, unimpressed.
Second support Fear of Men are closer to the mark, singer Jessica Weiss delivers some powerful vocal work as she churns her guitar and swaggers around in a little black dress. There is a duality between anthemic harmonies and wild thrashy noise here but the melodies seem a little indistinct, with tracks blurring into one another among the haze. Despite this, there are brilliant moments of ingenuity and intelligence, and the final crescendo has notes of wonderfully heavy psychedelia.
So on to the main event, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart emerge with frontman Kip Berman taking the helm amongst a rag-tag assembly of new faces and members of the previous supporting acts. This is clearly the aftermath of a mini-exodus in the Pains’ camp, but the amalgamation works well and there is chemistry to the point of sexual tension between Berman and Wiess.
Opening with ‘Until the Sun Explodes’, Pains make a wise choice in selecting the fuzziest and most familiar track from their new album ‘Days of Abandon’ to establish the groundwork. The crowd’s enthusiasm is a little tentative but is coaxed out ever so slightly with ‘The Body’, reminiscent of 80s pop and feel-good vibes; this showcases a tight collaboration between the transient congregation.
Following this are a chain of songs from the slightly softer latest release, some of which reek of Johnny Marr’s influence. When done subtly and as a basis of character it could be construed as a tasteful nod to a seminal artist; although sadly when ‘Kelly’ is heard live it highlights a habit of blatantly lifting guitar hooks from ‘The Smiths’ back catalogue. The punch-line is when Berman briefly mentions his affinity for Manchester bands and the impact they have had on him. No kidding.
Moving on from this, the fantastic ‘Young Adult Friction’ marks a distinct highlight in the set, the clever lyricism is barked word for word by a few loyal folk now showing some dynamism and all the tracks from Pains’ debut self-titled album are, unsurprisingly, incredibly well performed and received.
After closing for the encore with their trademark mixture of shoegazing, red-eyed lethargy and upbeat chaos, Berman returns alone to play an intimate piece ‘Ramona’ before the whole band burst on to stage following brief dimming of the lights and re-energise the crowd before closing on the title track of second album ‘Belong’. This extraordinary MBV-come-Pixies style noisepop anthem is a superb choice to close the show, remaining one of The Pain’s best tracks on the record or thrashed out live on stage.
Considering the upheaval of departing band members, dodgy sound technicians and shakey support acts, ‘The Pains of Being Pure at Heart’ demonstrated that they are an accomplished and exciting live band. Kip Berman wouldn’t go wrong at all if he retained this current line-up to record the next album, just please keep the hell away from Johnny Marr.