The queues around The Academy full of excitable youngsters, many of whom you suspect are at their first ever gig, and many of whom are with their parents, are not – you will no doubt be amazed to learn – for Brad. Instead they are for some pop sensation called Rita Ora, who has sold out the main room. In fairness too, there is a more than decent crowd next door as those who eschew such throwaway froth.
It is not surprising that the fans are out either. This is Brad’s first ever show in Birmingham. Which makes this gig a pretty big deal. Oh, and did we mention that Satchel frontman Shawn Smith and Stone Gossard of Pearl Jam (amongst others) are in this group. Whilst the bands notoriously low profile means RTM forgives you for not knowing, we are in supergroup territory ladies and gents.
As such, these are heady times for Worcestershire’s New Killer Shoes. The fact that this show is close to their hometown is mere happenstance. They are not “local support” on this jaunt. They are instead the opening act on the whole of this Brad European jaunt.
From the off it appears that the four piece are here to take the chance with both hands. When last we saw the band, opening for Eddie And The Hot Rods last Autumn they were a guitarist down. Here, back to full strength, they offer a more muscular sound. They have a nice line in harmonies, new single “Snakecharmer” is a catchy affair and “Happy Families” shows a darker side. This is a local band that seems to have the right indie crossover ingredients.
Crossing over is not something that has ever bothered Brad. Since the 1990s they have specialised in making the records they want to make, it just so happens that those records have a haunting, beguiling quality that is hard to pull off and even harder to quantify.
It soon becomes apparent that this is not going to be your normal rock gig. Shawn Smith sits at a piano and flexes his astonishing voice around the understated “Buttercup” and if his cowboy hat and beard sees him look like a member of Lynyrd Skynyrd, his band are genuinely one of a kind.
They turn into a lounge jazz band during the laid back “Waters Deep” get all funky on us in “20th Century” which sees Gossard banging on the Tom Toms, while arguable set highlight “Diamond Blues” saw them give a passable imitation of the Stones.
However, whilst in large measure this gig was incredible, there were a couple of missed steps towards the end which stopped it being perfect. For a start the encore was split into two parts, with Smith’s solo section of two Satchel songs rather dragging to the point of self-indulgence. Then when the band are back they end with a raucous cover of “Jumping Jack Flash” …or at least they should have. What they actually did was rather pointlessly reprise “Buttercup” again before bidding us farewell.
Whilst these are minor quibbles, perhaps, they did, for RTM’s money rather spoil what was a pretty incredible thing for the most part.
That said, as we walk down the street past all the pop fans, you can’t help but reflect on the fact that essentially within the same building the opposite ends of music were on show tonight. The disposable pop chanteuse might get the mainstream coverage, but we are glad that we are on the side of the genuinely original cult rock band that gave us a magnificent couple of hours.
Gossard in particular doesn’t need to be here. He can play arenas whenever he wants with his day job. That he was here shows he just loves playing music and that shone through tonight.