Concert Reviews

Hollowstar / Florence Black / Matt Mitchell & The Coldhearts Hot

Written by Central Electronic Brain     June 21, 2019    
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Hollowstar / Florence Black / Matt Mitchell & The Coldhearts - The Star & Garter, Manchester (UK) - 31 May 2019

The Star & Garter in Manchester has been a listed building since the late 1980s and has a capacity of around two-hundred (at a push). Tonight's show is a sell-out, the first for rising Cambridge rock quartet Hollowstar on this trek around the UK. The train journey into the city was more uncomfortable than usual because it was a really warm day and also because the carriages were full of hyper Spice Girls fans. SG were playing a run of dates at the Etihad Stadium, meaning all the pubs pre gig were full of enthusiastic fourty-plus year old women wearing clothes they had borrowed from their daughters. It was nice to arrive at the venue to escape the crowded streets and find somewhere to mingle with like-minded Rock music fans.

The upstairs room in the Star & Garter used for gigs is not big, so when Matt Mitchell and his Coldhearts opened up at 8pm there was only space to the rear to stand and take in the show. I am familiar with Matt's work with Pride and Furyon, but have not heard any of the music he has made recently. It is apparent that the current style is a million miles from that of the afore-mentioned bands, though still a showcase for his great voice. Such a shame then the vocal sound did Matt no favours at all. The hollow echo meant I did not recognise one word and so cannot even give any song titles. Musically the band were very tight and the guitar, bass and drums were clear as a bell. Such a small venue should not have such issues and they continued all the way through the six-song set. Other people also noticed so it wasn't just my old ears.

After a brief twenty-minute break it was time for Florence Black. The Welsh trio are no-nonsense and high energy. The songs are up-tempo and in your face, but after four or five songs I lost interest. This wasn't really the fault of the band, it was mainly due to the spiralling temperatures and the continuing vocal issues. Once more I did not hear one word and being unfamiliar with the material I cannot list any song titles (one possibly called 'Smoke' and another possibly called 'Ghost'). The guitar, bass and drums were fine once more, so there was something to appreciate musically, even though it did come across as a little samey. The enthusiastic crowd were very appreciative and the atmosphere was really good throughout, so they were obviously doing something right.

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Hollowstar have recently released their debut self-titled, full-length album, so they now have more than the usual six or seven songs I am used to seeing them play. Lead singer and bass player Joe Bonson announced just before they began their set that they would be playing all the songs from the album, as well as a couple of the more familiar songs from previous EPs. Unfortunately I only picked up the new CD on entering the venue, so aside from the songs that had been chosen as singles I did not know any of the others. To my frustration and disappointment the vocal sound had not been corrected so I had to struggle through the new songs without recognising any lyrics. Older songs such as 'Feel The Burn' and 'Let You Down' were ones I know and really like, but their impact was minimised due to the lack of clarity in the vocals. A lot of people in the crowd seemed to be enjoying the show despite the sound issues so maybe I am just being too picky. The cover of Free's 'Wishing Well' was a bit too loose, but certainly in keeping with the Hollowstar sound. Guitarists Phil Haines and Tom Collett and drummer Jack Bonson (Joe's brother) cannot be faulted and their performances were as good as I have seen at previous shows. I have only seen Hollowstar in a support band capacity during the last twelve months so I'm really pleased that the hard work has paid off and they have taken the step to the next level.

Train schedules, the rising temperatures in the small room and the increasingly annoying sound issues meant that I had to leave before the set ended. I'm sure I'll see Hollowstar again in 2019, as the band always seem to be on the road, so hopefully the next time will be more enjoyable. The journey home was accompanied by the sound of out-of-tune alcohol enhanced Spice Girls songs, but at least my Saturday had a happy ending.

Dave Bott

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