Before Phil Collins betrayed fans of progressive rock everywhere by steering Genesis from makers of 20 minute synth epics to producers of catchy pop hits, he penned a lyric describing Newcastle as a place “where it rains so much you can’t wait for a touch of sun and sand”. It may seem against common wisdom then that the North East (an area where 15 degrees Celsius constitutes the height of summer) is producing some of the nation’s sunniest and warmest music. But this is certainly the case. The tropical vibes of Newcastle’s Polarsets make Friendly Fires seem dull and frigid by comparison. From Wylam, Vinyl Jacket’s bright, shimmering keyboards and vocal harmonies are nearly the epitome of the aestival, topped only, perhaps, in their warm tone by fellow Geordies, Little Comets.
Little Comets’ set at The Borderline was a sweaty gig in a basement whose modest interior suggests a grassroots venue but whose alumni list shouts centre stage. The band played an energetic show to a crowd that needed no winning over, being already firmly devoted to the celebrated quintet and their roster of uplifting and extremely danceable songs.
I don’t know why, but Little Comets always seem to get a weird brand of overly-friendly heckles: shouts of “toon army!” and “Geordies!” abound. Frontman Robert Coles dealt with these in a gentlemanly fashion, trusting the intimacy of the venue, the energy of the performance and the sincerity of the band’s song-writing to establish a connection with the audience instead of indulging in weary crowd interaction. The trust was well placed as the band had the audience captivated right from the off; the thin line of infatuated front-row teenage girls who travelled into Soho from West London homes didn’t take their eyes off bassist Matt Hall all night…
Universally loved songs like Dancing Song and Joanna were received with even more vibrancy and movement than that with which they were delivered (lots). Such pleasers were interspersed with some more pensive penmanship, exemplified in songs such as Violence Out Tonight and Woman Woman. This mixture gave the set a well-crafted and appreciated dynamic, as well as ensuring that those who came to dance (everyone) didn’t burn out too quickly.
The true joy of the set however came in the many additions, expansions and augmentations the band applied to the materiel as it would be heard if one simply listened to their duo of albums; Jennifer received the acoustic extended outro treatment and the climax of the gig, a roaring and particularly moving rendition of In Blue Music We Trust, was given an extra couple of bars of outro section. This decision showed the band’s understanding of the nuances of live performance and allowed them to fully capitalise on maximising the climax of the frenetic atmosphere they had worked so hard throughout the set to create.
Everyone who listens to Little Comets’ songs will instantly recognise their writing and production ability. In the same manner, based on this performance, everyone who sees them play live will instantly recognise their musical virtuosity and their charisma as performers – they’re the complete package.