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Paul Stimpson

The Wild The Youth
Gullivers Gig

Paul Stimpson, Features Writer

Arriving at the Gullivers pub in the Northern Quarter area of Manchester, I was struck by the squeaky clean inside of the gritty looking pub. The last time I'd been, it was a bit of a state and I'd hoped that the upstairs gig venue was left untouched during this refurbishment.

It was just how I last saw it - a sweat box with posters plastered on the walls in a throwback to a by -gone era where Manchester music ruled the UK. Morrissey and Ian Curtis portraits look on as a young man takes to the stage armed only with his guitar.

James Holt has great stage presence, and as he opens his set from his sizable repertoire I feel glad to have arrived earlier than planned. ''Whatever Happened To John'' is Maggie's Farm mark 2, and a true rocking folk song. James doesn't do just rocking rock though, he dabbles in ballads and experimental.

''To Go Where The Wind Blows'' shows James' dulcet tones, with a chord progression akin to ''I Don't Believe You'' - an early Bob Dylan number. You will notice that the comparisons I have drawn are both Bob Dylan tracks, and I spent a lot of James set remarking on how much he sounded like the folk legend.

Until ''Alone Again And Always'' swings my comparison pendulum over to John Lennon - his vocals become more varied, slipping in and out of falsetto over this seemingly experimental track.

It may be a cliché to compare a folk artist to Bob Dylan and John Lennon, but James Holt's talent deserves those compliments - his song writing too deserves a mention, as he sets the night up perfectly.

Next up, Towns & Cities plug in the amps and turn the reverb up to 11. Elly Johnson leads the band into a heavy opener, before playing arguably their best song ''Demonstration''.

Her ghostly vocals float nicely around the room as guitarists Johnny Harmen and Rahiel Ghani trade intricate riffs that give this band their unique sound.

Après is even better as the shoe gazing becomes more prominent. The melody is sweet as Elly sings ''It's all the same without you, It's only you that brings me down'' in this melancholic anthem.

Another highlight is ''School'', with Elly again gliding over the bass driven track wonderfully. Johnny Harmen executes a beautiful blues guitar solo towards the end, certifying that Towns & Cities are a band full of melody and excellent musicians that can only come across well when they play live.

10:15pm and the stage is set for the headliners. The Wild The Youth, take to the stage in darkness for their debut show. I'm barged into by somebody ''Shit, we're on!''

The lead singer makes a chaotic and timely entrance to the stage which will accurately sum up the rest of the show.

The mere presence of the band on stage allows a sudden shift in mood for the audience who were quiet and observant before, and are now boisterous and expectant.

After an untitled opener, the band launch into ''Predictable Me'' with a drop of a hi-hat and the live version is just as explosive as the studio version.

The front man thanks the crowd for coming down, and has a quick breather after absolutely working the stage for the first two songs. Steven White is as good as a frontman as you will see - energetic, confidence and charisma...The Wild, The Youth could have a very special future.

Newer songs came after, ''Playing The Fool'' and an un-named track that had features of rebellion and revolt with Steven White screaming ''you won't take freedom from the free''.

Arguably the best song of the night, and from the band's self-titled debut EP, ''Searching For'' is a welcome break from the relentless and chaos.

It was at this point during the most heavenly of songs, the light show The Wild, The Youth brought with them began. Two strobes set up on either side of the stage behind the band - the lights flashed in correspondence with the drum beat, and cast some quite eerie shadows on the walls either side of the audience.

Steven White stops the show briefly; he has a stone in his shoe. With the shift he put in during this set, we'll let him off on that one.

A few weeks ago I wrote that The Wild, The Youth are banging on the door and we'll have to let them in soon. As we are left reeling from an emphatic rendition of ''Awake'', the door we spoke of has well and truly been blown off its hinges.