Hurts, Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London

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The Independent Culture

“Well, well, well,” vocalist Theo Hutchcraft purrs darkly. He’s clad in a sharp suit and white shirt buttoned up to the collar, his scraped-back hair emphasising his strikingly pale skin and angular jaw. “There are lots of people here,” he muses, smiling seductively and gesturing to the jostling crowd with all the new-wave charm of a man who’s just stepped out of 1981.

This is the packed last night of Mancunian band Hurts’ European tour - an extraordinary achievement for a synth-pop duo who only signed a record deal last year, released their debut record Happiness last month, and have only ever played London twice before.

However, despite their popularity, the opening synths of “Unspoken” are unremarkable, and “Silver lining” is pretty dull. The tacky set seems to consist of five illuminated shower cubicles; the huge male backing singer is so affectedly still he could be a waxwork; and bandmate Adam Anderson appears pretentious as he flicks his coat-tails like a concert pianist (he sits at an electric piano).

That most of the fans weren’t alive during the musical era that Hurts channel is a clear advantage. To these fresh eyes, their dark, self-indulgent melancholy is an exciting point of difference within the current indie scene. For a handful of songs, this is true.

“Eighteen months ago, we wrote a song about Bristol. Now we play it around the world,” says Hutchcraft, revealing a Yorkshire accent as he introduces the single “Wonderful life”. His vocals are undeniably strong and, combined with a Noughties update, it’s a promising sound.

However, their new single “Stay” could be a Westlife cover with added “cool”, and others hold the kind of clichés that pass as a song for X Factor contestants