I’ve been waiting patiently for over six years for another chance to see Rico live (at Reading in ’99), so to say I was looking forward to it was something of an understatement.
But first, as always, there was the support acts to cope with. First up (and a late change to the bill) were Deviant UK, a band whom I have heard lots about, played at TCF even, but never seen live. Very competent at what they do – stompy EBM/Industrial – with Jay the frontman being something of a showman. All told, though, it left me somewhat cold. Their influences show through all too clearly (Gary Numan-esque vocals, even a cover of Project Pitchfork‘s Timekiller, and then his stage presence seems heavily based on Ronan from VNV Nation…) and it all blurs a little by the end of the set.
That said, they sound far harder and cleaner on stage than on record – a problem with many smaller bands. One to watch for the future, but they perhaps need to develop further.
Which is more than could be said for Demeter, who were yet another band to appear to be trying for all style and nothing else. A lead singer that according to a friend “cast a good silhouette“, but mumbled into her mic, or alternatively shouted – nothing in between. The music, when the quite atrocious mix allowed us to hear it, was sub-Garbage nonsense that was trying too hard. So, er, no.
And onto Rico. Attendance was ok by this point, but by no means all that busy (why do Manchester Uni never promote gigs properly?), but those who were there appeared to know everything and almost every word. Predictable enough opener in Recommended Dose as the band rumbled into life, followed by a surprise in old B-side Bed Of Nails. The set then slammed into a higher gear with a furious and glorious Freefall immediately followed by Big Black Sea – two big crowd favourites dispensed with early. And next up? My favourite Rico track of all, Forward Motion, which took it’s time to unwind into the tick-tocking of the chorus, before ending abruptly with a whispered finish. Time for something old next, with an updated (and crunching) version of Sanctuary Medicines that took us all by surprise, which merged nicely into the heady rush of She’s My Punk Rock.
A good sign for the future was the appearance of a new song, The Director’s Cut, which although already nice and familiar, signposts a bright future (and hopefully a third album somewhat quicker!). The other big surprise was the appearance of perhaps the most personal of the songs from the first album, Smokescreen, which was mostly played in almost total darkness and made for quite a chilling effect. Obvious enough end to the set with Crazier and a raging Attack Me, before an evidently happy Rico and band headed offstage. Much to my surprise we got an encore, in the mellow ambience of Dear God.
All told, one of the best gigs I have seen all year – in the hour long set not a note wrong, nothing felt out of place. How he isn’t more popular or well-known I have never understood, but if you never have listened, head to the website and have a listen. You may be rather surprised.