“It’s a Long Way to the Top If You Want to Rock n Roll,” goes the old song.
But what about those dedicated acts who are just trying to keep it real on their more-than-five-year mission to explore strange new venues, to seek out new audiences, to boldly share their uniquely entertaining sounds?
Musicians who, while not unhappy to have been snagged by mortgages, children and the need to earn a living, are still compelled to air their talents and get in touch with their inner indie star? Even when there is stiff competition for stage time.
As Shatner lead singer, guitarist and driving creative force, Jim Bower, said before this show to launch the band’s latest album, ‘Enlightenmental’: “You can easily get a gig if you’re twenty-somethings doing cover versions, but when you’re in your fifties playing original material, it’s a lot harder.”
Luckily, Leeds has The Brudenell Social Club – an exquisitely preserved former working men’s club, complete with original ‘50s decor – which embraces and showcases music of all forms. This vibrant venue puts on up and coming locals and touring acts alike, often staging two bills at the same time on stages either side of a network of inviting bars.
And Shatner are certainly worthy of the spotlight tonight, as they pump out a series of infectious, sci-fi tinged, indie rock/power pop numbers. The lively five-piece has been building its distinctive catalogue for the best part of 20 years and really does have it all: presence, serious musical talent and a winning confection of supreme confidence and self-deprecation.
Its quirky songs are funny, speculative and big on concept, with titles as catchy as the tunes themselves – ‘Speed of Dark’, ‘Spaceships and Stuff’, ‘Anticlockwise’, ‘We Go Whoo’ (from the new album) and ‘Three Erotic Dreams’.
Happily serving up some fine guitar noodling, blending harmonies and a truly monumental bassline, band members are clearly having the time of their lives as they cruise from one joyous four-minute epic to the next, leaving a breathless crowd gobsmacked at their energy and élan. Crucially for this correspondent, Shatner also know how to harness feedback and the reverb without coming to a cropper
Defining the quirky quintet’s sound to someone who hasn’t heard it is difficult but gig buddy, Jake and I agreed they sit somewhere between The Wedding Present, The B52s and Half Man, Half Biscuit.
Somebody once told me that the best band ever probably never made it out of the garage. And the ‘Shatner paradox’ is that this dazzling act, which not only deserves to be massive but would be so good at it, still delights hometown audiences for no better reason than the joy of doing so.
I’m already looking forward to the next time they touch down – but in the meantime, beam me up to the great gig in the sky, Scotty!