First Night: The Feeling, Shepherd's Bush Empire, London

Second-division soft rock that lacks Feeling
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

The Feeling's version of the Beatles' Hamburg strip-club proving ground was an Alpine resort's bar. Unsurprisingly, they sound more like Wings minus McCartney's residual genius, and share the lyrical cosiness of their other soft-rock heroes, many of whom – including Richard Carpenter, Elton and McCartney – have happily met them. A million-selling debut, Twelve Stops And Home, and ruling 2007's UK Airplay chart have added to The Feeling's satisfaction as they tour the follow up Join With Us. As with their heroes, only respect eludes them.

"I Thought It Was Over" brings them out to an electro-disco overture, their most modern moment. The hit "Fill My Little World" adds an artful, entirely McCartneyesque bassline.

But "Won't Go Away" is the litmus test. It builds shamelessly on the beat of Bowie's "Modern Love", complete with a 1983-style intrusive sax solo. Dan Gillespie Sells' impersonation of Freddie Mercury then reveals just why acts such as The Feeling and the far superior Scissor Sisters have won the public's heart and left the critics cold. Queen's baroque melodic campery is regarded almost as highly as the Beatles all over Britain. Gillespie Sells' pirouettes, and Who-style pin wheeling strums of his guitar, are a poor excuse for Mercury's showmanship. He lacks the latter's consuming need for, and command of, crowds. But the template is clear, and popular.

The collection of legendary mannerisms from which Gillespie Sells has built his vocal style unexpectedly offers Lennon's rawness on "Spare Me". Its relative introspection is followed by "Without You", an apparently winsome letter from an English band abroad which sketches in Cho Seung-Hui's massacre of 32 Denver students, when The Feeling were in town. "Strange", with just the singer at the piano, completes a sequence where the lyrical meaning that rock fans prefer peeks through "why do you feel ashamed/we love you all the same".

Tempting as it is to imagine this is inspired by his own gayness, it feels more like a general, polite hand to outsiders. In any case, "meaning" has minimal currency here "give me the song and I'll sing it like I mean it", he also sings and, amid the tottering harmonic towers and easy melodies cribbed from some primal, pre-punk seventies, that is all his fans require.

A cover of Phil Oakey and Georgio Moroder's cheesy Eighties hit "Electric Dreams" is followed by "Don't Make Me Sad", their most epically sophisticated, multi-part downer, complete with flamenco dancers. Buggles' "Video Killed The Radio Star" is a minor triumph "Join With Us" they ask, too, but I can't.

I can't quite fall for The Feeling because the melodic majesty of Richard Carpenter, faux classical ambition of ELO, or contrasting acidity of 10cc, are as yet beyond them. Soft rock's greatest confections aren't as easy as they sound. And The Feeling, as yet, are in its second division.