Joiners, Southampton

The Spitfires

On a day when Southampton is playing host to a day-long music event, The Joiners are preparing to welcome the return of Watford’s finest, but more of that later. First on the bill is Alex Matthews; a singer/songwriter/acoustic act with a guitarist sidekick (who’s name escapes me) for company. He opens cheerily with heartfelt ditties about modern life. His constant grin is infectious as he makes every effort to explain the origin of most of his songs. “Cigarette” is an early highlight while “Crossroads” is a brutally honest writing of going away to Uni and missing one’s friends, (while attempting to make new ones). Alex leans heavily on Frank Turner for influence but remains true to what he is clearly best at-songwriting. A pleasant and confident opening garnering decent applause.

Alex Matthews
Alex Matthews 

Up next is singer/songwriter James Seaward (and band). His output is strong almost from start to finish, despite him (in my opinion) appearing to be singing in an American accent throughout. This is confirmed when he attempts to banter with the crowd. His bassist is statuesque the entire gig while James himself at least attempts to cover the small space afforded him. To his right he has a female backing singer, but his voice alone I feel is enough for this band and she can barely be heard above their overall sound. I have no beef whatsoever with his singing or musicianship, this is a man with a huge talent. But when he announces “Teenage Kicks” as their penultimate song I’m worried, and so I should be. For some bands certain covers are best left alone! Their last song at least redeems them and they leave to great applause. I have no doubt James (and band) will be around the circuit for some time to come, they just don’t do it for this reviewer.

James Seaward
James Seaward 1

Main support tonight comes from local boys “The Manatees”. This band have brought good numbers along to support them tonight and swell the audience to near capacity. Again though their fey ‘Indie/Pop’ is totally lost on me. All the elements are there, I’m just not seeing anything new. Four immaculately attired young chaps; all musically competent, but over-reliant on their Jamie T/Alex Turner-isms. Plenty of shapeshifting going on and they sound great and frankly look great-they (for me) just lack any originality. Luckily for them I am in the minority, their crowd (and my photographer) love them and they get the best audience response of the entire evening. I retreat to the bar after 3 songs and look forward to the headliners.

The Manatees
The Manatees 123

At bang on 10.35 Watford’s finest quietly take to the stage. They open with “Last Goodbye” and Billy (guitar/vox) is energetic from the outset. He and Sam (bass/b vox) are immaculately attired but it’s Matt (drums) who steals the show tonight. Fan favourite “Stand Down” follows, yet this Joiners crowd are strangely quiet and there’s barely a flicker of movement in the room. “So Long” precedes the excellent “On My Mind” which at last gets a few older members in the audience leaping around. However, during “A Thousand Times”, The Manatees devotees leave en masse and there’s a gaping gap at the front of the room which no-one seems keen to fill. Billy makes a half-arsed gesture to move forward but no-one appears to want to move.

Cuts from both LP’s are featured tonight but only when they play “I’m Holdin’ On” does this crowd suddenly spring into life, as does Matt (drums) who gives us one of many ferocious solo’s. This immediately changes the mood in the room and suddenly a few more punters decide to dance. “When I Call Your Name” is a set highlight as Billy tries even more determinedly to get everyone in the mood, fervently making use of the space he has. Sam however, is stood bolt upright, displaying a stern gaze throughout. Chris (keys) to Billy’s left is constantly moving but ending on “Spark To Start” seems somewhat apt this evening, the whole set I feel is lacking a spark.

The Spitfires
The Spitfires 12345

They leave the stage briefly but return for a two-song encore. “Drop Down Dead” is truly excellent, allowing Matt another moment in the limelight with some terrific rolls and fills. They then end on “Day To Day” and after an hour it’s over. I’m reliably informed that on their previous visit the Joiners was quite literally jumping. Tonight, however, there’s just something missing. I cannot fault the band, it may just be an audience thing. The crowd didn’t seem “up for it” and the band looked despondent because of it. I hope they return to play to “their crowd” (if they return)? It’s an ever-growing genre and with The Rifles returning to the fold with a new LP, the battle lines will be drawn again. I look forward to seeing which band take it to the next level but for me it’s the Spitfires time. They have youth on their side and it’s up to them to grab it with both hands and run with it.

Set List
The Spitfires
Last Goodbye
Stand Down
So Long
On My Mind
A Thousand Times
I Don’t Even Know Myself
Sole to Soon
I’m Holdin’ On
Tell Me
When I Call Your Name
Return to Me
Spark to Start

Drop Down Dead
Day to Day



Words by Ross A Ferrone
Pictures & Videos by Dave Chinery (Chinners)

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