After spending Wednesday evening at the UEA for the highly anticipated return visit of Savages to Norwich - a gig that had several fellow reviewers described as their best live experience ever, I am back on the trail of Norfolk bands tonight at Norwich Arts Centre. Local promoter Twisted Melon has organised a a night headlined by Lightscape, and supported by Kingdom Keys, Franko Fraize, and The Everlaine. It promises to be a night that showcases three of the regions top alternative rock bands, together with Thetford's own rapping Danny Dyer - the irrepressible Breckland Ska-Man himself, Mr Franko Fraize.
The Everlaine join the other three acts on this, the final night of a short tour by Lightscape and Kingdom Keys. I have seen them once before, almost two years ago when they opened for The Rumble here at the Arts Centre. The lineup appears the same, but the confidence of their playing has advanced beyond recognition. Vocalist Ellie's voice has so much power and clarity - even though she is dwarfed visually by the towering presence of Ryan on guitar, she can really carry a tune. That voice reminds at times of The Gossip's Beth Ditto, although you would never confuse the two in real life. I also love an energetic bass player, and Charlie provides that in abundance. He obviously gets plenty of E-numbers in his diet, but plays some tasty licks. Drummer Tom keeps a lid on things with some tidy and consistent stick work. I've no idea what an 'everlaine' is, but I really love this band.
Franko Fraize is now almost a local legend since having supported Mike Skinner in 2012, Rudimental in Thetford Forest earlier this year, and by dropping his famous Oi,oi's everywhere from BBC Introducing to the Reading and Leeds Festivals. Tonight, he seems more excited about being asked to turn on the Thetford Christmas lights than any of the above. He and his band did not arrive in time for a proper soundcheck, and are more concerned about organising a pint on stage than worrying about the levels. And this is why we love Franko. Yes, he may sometimes seem a bit cocky and laddish, but his enthusiasm, quick wit and energy are genuinely infectious. You simply cannot imagine him waking up one morning at home and announcing that he fancies a 'quiet day' in front of the TV. Respect.
Kingdom Keys are a six-piece rock influenced band who formed in 2015. The six-track debut EP Beyond What You See reveals some lovely melodic tracks, led by the vocals of front man Sam Cook on acoustic guitar. Live on stage it becomes a little more congested, and the best sound mix actually comes when Cook swaps guitar for tambourine. Once again, there is a lovely bass sound, this time provided on the five-string by Jay Harrison, sporting what looks like a pair of Christmas slippers. Yo ho ho!
Will Overton - Lightscape
Headliners Lightscape have certainly pulled out all the stops in the presentation of this final show on their Autumn tour. Behind them is a large banner featuring their name and logo. Appropriately enough for a band with such a name, the spotlights, trackers, strobes and floods have been arranged and programmed to deliver a lights show worthy of any band to have played the Norwich Arts Centre. Copious amounts of smoke have been billowing out from the rear of the stage since the doors opened, meaning that the lights pierce the darkness with a power and intensity that Trinity House would be proud of. The band benefits enormously from the talent and experience of singer Will Overton. I remember Will from the EDP Next Big Thing competition way back in 2005, and from his band Lot 55 which he formed soon after. The highlight of their set is undoubtedly provided by the big guitar riffs and the echoing vocals on their new single Running, but sometimes it is a case of less is more, and I would love to hear some of those fine melodies in a more stripped-down form sometime, and without the smoke and illuminations. But, for those who were born to rock, this was a great way to end the evening.
All four acts tonight demonstrated once again what a wealth of musical talent we have within the county of Norfolk. When will the rest of the country wake up and give one of our bands a real break? Thanks to Twisted Melon Productions and Tristan Hinnis for a fine evening.