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:: The Coral :: Delta Maid ::
15 January 2011 / Ruby Lounge / Manchester
By Adam Wheeldon

And so to a new year, and amidst all the talk of who is going to be big in 2011 and which star in the making appears to be the most photogenic for the next 12 months, come a band who were once part of the hype machine surrounding the start of any year. Nearly 10 years on from when The Coral were splashed all over the music press and touted as the next big thing thanks largely to their early chaotic mix of psychedelic indie-pop, lie a band who have become one of the classic British indie acts of recent years, consistently producing fine records which have seen them lose the hype but gain plenty of passion to constantly deliver a beautiful melody. Tonight is the first of two sold out shows at the newly-refurbished Ruby Lounge where the opportunity to witness the band stripped back and acoustic has undeniably been a major draw and will intend to showcase that the first major gig in the city for 2011 is a special one.

Upon hearing that the venue was having a refit over the Christmas period, it was a pleasant surprise to see how the Ruby Lounge have made impressive changes to the layout to enhance the live experience but without losing any of its intimacy. Gone is the divide between bar and stage and with it the pillars which restricted visibility, and has now been turned into one large floor which gives out many more viewing positions. Also lost is the DJ booth at the front of stage which opens up the floor even more and all this extra space they have created in such a tiny environment only adds to the gig experience and makes it a lot more comfortable but without losing any of its cosy appeal. However, gone are the debauched days of caged asylum as the cage is no longer a fixture at the back of the venue, instead plush 2-3 seat sofas and freshly laid carpet make it feel like a giant modern waiting room and it's sure to be only a matter of time before the odd beer stain appears on that nice new carpet. Overall it's a commendable change to an already great venue and one which is sure to be embraced by gig goers over the coming months.

Away from my Grand Designs review and back to the music and the soothing vocals of Delta Maid set a suitable tone for the evening. Armed with just an acoustic guitar and influenced by the raw blues sounds of the deep south, Delta offers tales of modern day experiences set to a traditional backdrop of blues-folk which make for an endearing listen. Engaging the audience with tales of how her songs came about including one she wrote about a girl she used to work with at Wythenshawe Hospital and subsequently didn't get on too well with, she has a warm personality and one which the crowd certainly adhere too. A fellow Liverpudlian, the raw nature of her vocals make her voice a powerful instrument. A welcome cover of "The Way It Is" by Bruce Hornsby and the Range adds a bit of a singalong as her warm, passionate voice and gentle strumming certainly make it her own in a credible manner. A talented singer-songwriter and one who uses her influences to great effect.

With the Ruby Lounge now suitably rammed and the anticipation building at the prospect of The Coral performing up close and personal in a venue that is a lot more intimate than they are normally used to, the band arrive onstage to be greeted by a wave of enthusiasm and fervent energy that would usually feel reserved for an electric performance. The last time they were in town was an all-seater gig at the Lowry back in July which saw a large section of the crowd escape the constraints of their seats and storm the stage towards the end of the set, resulting in some interesting confrontations with the security of the venue. With the band perched on stools and stripped down to a three-piece for these shows, the passion and energy of the audience is still very much evident as the unplugged version of opener 'More Than a Lover' serve to illustrate with the gentle strumming and mournful vocals of James Skelly striking a chord within the intimate surroundings. Focusing heavily on re-worked versions of tracks from latest album 'Butterfly House', the harmony of three acoustic guitars working together create a very special atmosphere as the likes of 'Walking In The Winter', 'Roving Jewel' and 'Coney Island' showcase their continued ability to create such lush melodies which has become their trademark over the years. Despite being a relatively shy performer on stage, frontman James Skelly appears a lot more relaxed in this environment. Smiling throughout, he engages in a bit of a banter when he misheard someone asking for old songs; "Did someone ask for old songs? Shall we not make an album and just be a cabaret band then?!" A humourous put down although the guy was asking for 'all songs' at which point Skelly proclaims "I can't believe the language barrier in here!" The mass singalong of 'Pass It On' soon diminishes any fears of hearing none of the earlier work, and the mini-moshing of 'In The Morning' certainly add a new dimension to an acoustic show.



The psychedelic feel of the first album is also given a raw airing as 'Simon Diamond' is turned into a modern folk singalong along with the set finale of 'Calendars and Clocks' showcasing how much range and emotion they have possessed ever since they first arrived on the scene.

Leaving the stage to rapturous applause, the band encore with 'Goodbye' and a special heartfelt version of The Beatles' 'Ticket To Ride' and 'Stand By Me' by Ben E. King which James Skelly proclaims to be;"Two of the greatest songs ever written" and are interpreted by a frontman who effortlessly make it his own. Closing what has already been a set of memorable highlights is crowd favourite 'Dreaming Of You', the band's signature tune and a fitting end to a performance which has illustrated just how special The Coral have been in creating so many infectious melodies and classic anthems over the years. Stripping back these songs and revealing them in such a raw form has been a wondrous experience to hear. Although the hype surrounding them has long gone, they continue to have a loyal following and a special place within the city. The antagonisms between the people of Manchester and Liverpool are certainly put aside when it comes to music, and as the three members of The Coral leave the stage shaking hands with those who have been fortunate enough to attend this intimate performance, it is a special start to a year in which The Coral should certainly have a place.


Resources:
The Coral
Delta Maid

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