Live: Exit Calm – Sound Control, Manchester

South Yorkshire quartet Exit Calm are a band that are made in the same mould as some of Manchester’s 1990s indie stalwarts. They have a reputation for an anthemic sound that allows space, and guitarist, Rob Marshall to go off on the odd tangent, without ever really straying from the confines of straight-up rock music.

There’s a feeling that at a time when the likes of Muse, Coldplay and Snow Patrol are still able to fill stadiums though, a band that take a similar approach but implement it in a more interesting way – as Exit Calm do – deserve to be playing a venue a little larger than Manchester’s Sound Control.

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Despite the underwhelming nature of the surroundings, it should probably be considered that the band have had a fairly slow-burning career thus far. After their first full-length release saw them tour with Modest Mouse and Echo and the Bunnymen, they laid low, spending three years in “self-imposed exile”.

But last year they returned with a follow-up to their self-titled debut called ‘The Future Isn’t What It Used to Be’. The record was slightly more expansive than its predecessor, but still sounded measured compared to artists part of the current psych craze such who have released some of the best albums around during the Barnsley group’s dormant period.

Exit Calm take to the stage notably later than scheduled – something that frontman Nicky Smith later airs his frustration about – and open with their comeback single ‘The Rapture’. The track is of the same rallying nature as U2 in their War and Joshua Tree era and also sounds as if it takes influence from Manchester favourites Doves – it’s a rendition that gets the gig off to a flyer.

Although they’re not re-inventing the wheel with their latest incarnation, it is clear that Exit Calm have thought long and hard about coming back with an engaging album and a live show to match.

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Smith sings with a passion and battle cry reminiscent of Richard Ashcroft and the meandering guitar style of Marshall means that comparisons to Nick McCabe and The Verve’s Northern Soul phase are virtually unavoidable.

But the Barnsley rockers pull it off well and the dry humour and slight moodiness of the frontman is very much in keeping with the musical backdrop his band provide. He has a pop at the evening’s support bands for dawdling – a factor that means Exit Calm don’t get to break the hour barrier.

They do well to make a stark impression with tracks like ‘Fiction’ and ‘Holy War’ though, showcasing a kind of rock ‘n’ roll that stands out and puffs out its chest, while still maintaining a slight tinge of distorted mystery.

It’s fair to say that Exit Calm are not an act that could be described as being in any way pioneering, but three years away has led them to gain a better idea of what they do best and tonight they have duly delivered.

With performances like this it is clear that they very much deserve the modest, but ultimately loyal fanbase they seem to have acquired since they formed eight years ago -something that could well see them developing into an act that harness a longevity rarely enjoyed in the fractious current day.

Patrick Davies

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