Mr. Kyps, Poole

Empire Affair

It’s a warm Good Friday evening down at Mr. Kyps as the venue plays host to a charity fundraiser with a difference. Tonight’s entertainment is provided by 3 local acts – 2 who have reformed just for this event. The event itself is for Prostate Cancer, which I’m reliably informed will affect 1 in 10 males at some point during their lives.

Kicking us off at 8.15 prompt are Lymington-based Indie kids The Manatees. Their Alex Turner-inspired tunes are well received early on from what one can only assume are the majority of their fan base, such is the applause for most of their songs. They write unfussy, simple tunes about everyday life and strife. An inauspicious start hasn’t fazed them and they duly get down to business. They open with “Through and Through” before early crowd pleaser “Saturday Night” which kinda echoes the early buzz in the room. “Pissed on Prosecco” comes next; one can see where their songwriting influences come from, everyday life experiences and more. The chiming guitars are the main feature of their sound in an altogether Poppy/Indie style.

The Manatees
The Manatees 123

It’s just a shame that so many in the room would rather talk loudly than stay quiet and give them a listen. Penultimate track “A Lot to Say” is kinda apt considering the lack of manners in the room – this young band are decent and deserve to be heard. They end with “Avoiding Glances” and their heartfelt vocals and chiming guitars are apparent to the very end. With a recent support slot at The Joiners (Southampton) no less The Manatees need to take the baton and run with it. They have a unique sound, albeit with the right influences. They have certainly improved since I last saw them some 9 months ago and so I wish them well.

The Manatees
The Manatees 

Next up are one time Christchurch favourites The Otherhalf. Since their demise some 7 years ago many things have happened-marriage, children, new bands etc. Like many others on the local scene though I always knew they would reconvene at some time. The band take to the stage and blow off any cobwebs still lingering. Dan (guitar/vox) is in rabble-rousing mood and beckons us all forward – it’s a tactic I for one remember from their past. He is the consummate frontman and it’s as if they’ve never been away. This one time “house band” of the now defunct “Late ‘n Live” nightclub (Christchurch) certainly give us the impression this might not just be a one-off. They open confidently with “Barcelona”, Dan grinning from ear to ear. Most of their fan base have stuck with them and are here tonight. “I Don’t Mind” and “Too Late Tonight” still sound fresh while “Yolandi” begins (almost) spoken word before really kicking into life.

The Other Half
The Other Half 123456789101112

I have to say, it has been 7 long years-even I don’t recognise many of their songs. Their Indie/Funk sound is still very apparent amid the swirling guitars and delicate drumming. Penultimate track “Do You Know” fires my memory as I recall the guitar part on the intro while “Emergency” brings a confident return to a close. While they don’t quite have an absolute killer anthem these songs have stood the test of time well. I feel the odd cover wouldn’t be out of place, (but that’s for them to decide) should they reconvene for future shows. Good applause greet the band on their departure and I can see how much this show has meant to them-I won’t make any wild predictions on future plans, all I will say is watch this space!

The Other Half
The Other Half 

And so to the headliners. Two years ago Empire Affair called time on their “career”, due in the main to vocalist Neil’s work commitments. When I heard they had agreed to do this “one-off” charity event I just knew I had to attend. What we get tonight is not some half-arsed trawl thru’ the back catalogue. Tonight the guys have pulled out all the stops, incorporating some unexpected covers and a new song no less. They open with one of their most notable numbers “December”, but expertly create a “mash-up” with U2’s “With or Without You”. Neil cleverly “reverses” the harmony in his vocal to great effect – this is a version of the song you won’t hear anywhere else that’s for sure. Neil is in full flow now and it’s as if he’s never been away! “Press Reset” follows with the classic drumbeat addition. However, he really opens his lungs on “Can You Feel It” – yes we most certainly do!

“Don’t Let Me Down” precedes the strangely named “Wilfred”, before Jack (lead/b vox) Woolston gives us the complete back story of how he came to write “Dancing on The Moon” for his good lady, who he will soon be marrying. One of the reasons Empire Affair were so good was just by virtue of being the sum of their respective parts. Great musicianship, great songwriting and a live show of great energy with an enigmatic frontman. Tonight again we see all these attributes, and any doubts as to whether they can pull it off are soon extinguished. The great songs just keep a coming. Lana Del Rey’s “Video Games” gets the EA treatment before an energetic “One Night in Munich”.

Empire Affair
Empire Affair 12345678910

And so we get to a new song. “Stay Gold” is preceded by the now legendary shirt removal from Neil, one or two female audience members seem pleased! It seems somewhat effortless that they can still write fresh material, despite their hiatus. “D.N.A. Code” follows and I’m reminded of early Ride in the guitars during the outro with their chiming intensity. “End of Disco” sees them near the end of their set, but the finale is worth sticking around for. They end on a cover while inviting the support band members to join them onstage. They get no takers and it’s up to Neil to ramp it up one last time. They brilliantly cover Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'”, again they create a mash-up with “Tornadoes”. And that folks is pretty much that.

Empire Affair
Empire Affair 

I am reliably informed afterwards that there are no more shows planned, so basically this was Empire Affair’s “official” last ever show! Which is such a shame after a show this good. But let’s not forget this was a charity fundraiser. Proof if ever it was needed one can still put on a show with the right bands at a fair price and still pull the punters. There are no losers tonight with over £1000 raised, bands get decent exposure in a good local venue and the crowd appear to leave happy. It would be easy to suggest this kind of event could be replicated in the future, I for one though wouldn’t rule it out.

Set Lists
Empire Affair
December inc. With or Without You (U2)
Press Reset
Can You Feel It
Don’t Let Me Down
Dancing on the Moon
Point Break
Forest Beyond the Trees
Video Games (Lana Del Rey)
One Night in Munich
Stay Gold
D.N.A. Code: We’re All Just Animals Outro
End of Disco
Don’t Stop Belivin’ (Journey)

The Other Half
I Don’t Mind
Too Late Tonight
Into the Fire
Cards on the Table
Do You Know

The Manatees
Through and Through
Saturday Night
Pissed on Prosecco
Young Hearts
Better Than This
Little Thing
A Lot to Say
Avoiding Glances



Words by Ross A. Ferrone
Pictures by Jon Musselwhite
Videos by David “Bouncy” Chinery (Chinners)

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