Hurts, The Ritz, Manchester
Everything Everything, Scala, London

Emotion is always hovering near the severely tailored surface of Eighties-inspired duo Hurts

Something's happening here. Ninety minutes before doors, and there's already a queue outside the Ritz, the appealingly gaudy Mancunian ballroom where Jimmy Savile held court in the real-life Sixties, and DCI Gene Hunt menaced Marc Bolan lookalikes in the fictional Seventies.

And the best thing is, I never saw it coming.

Back in January, the portentousness with which Hurts were presented to the media verged on the comical. With their moody monochrome publicity shots and Roman-lettered logo, it was almost as if Hurts were a font and a filter before they were a pop group. Theo Hutchcraft and Adam Anderson, escapees from electro-pop quintet Daggers, had transformed into besuited purveyors of elegant, elegiac pop, pitching themselves as, approximately, a straight Tennant & Lowe: the Het Shop Boys, if you will. And they were unmistakably getting the big push, but it felt doomed. Suave, sombre synth duos? I eat that stuff for breakfast, but I've become accustomed to the rest of the world turning a deaf ear, and I didn't hold out much hope for Hurts. I've rarely been happier about being wrong.

Hurts are Britain's fastest-selling new band of 2010, with (ironically titled) debut album Happiness reaching No 4; they're even bigger abroad, where they've had No 1s in four European countries. That's how they can afford the big double-decker Fastway tour bus. Transit life is over.

What's beautiful about this is that they did it by taking risks. No one will ever get laughed at for sounding like PiL or ESG – the cool bit of the Eighties. Hurts have the audacity to draw upon the uncool arse-end of that decade, the glossy likes of Black, Climie Fisher or Go West, occasionally verging on the soft-focus movie soundtrack stylings of Berlin. There's even a touch of the operatic: "Verona" sounds like Andrea Bocelli's "Con te partirò", and is augmented by an actual divo.

"It's very affected," says a man who genuinely isn't a journalistic construct, before a note has been played or a word sung. And if he means they've paid attention to detail, he's right. Hurts – Adam in a Nehru collar, Theo buttoned to the top – are two seriously sharp-dressed men. Touch them and you'd bleed.

I wonder how they'll fare in the flesh, given the surfeit of slow songs on Happiness: only "Sunday" and "Better Than Love" could ever be termed dancefloor friendly. It isn't a problem: the Hurts live experience cleverly swells from the minimal to the maximal as it goes along, both visually and musically. Theo Hutchcraft is, as well as a raging piece of eye candy and a singer whose voice is forever on the emotion-choked break, a consummate frontman. There are crowd-pleasing references to Belle Vue dogs and defunct club nights and, with reference to the pop goddess they lured into appearing on "Devotion": "Kylie Minogue couldn't make it today. She got stuck on the No 42 from Fallowfield in Rusholme ..." (They compensate for her absence with a cracking, thwacking cover of KM's "Confide in Me".)

In any case, it isn't as though the duo face an uphill struggle with this home-town crowd. I see several Hurts lookalikes (my advice: invest in waistcoats now), and although Happiness has been out only five weeks, everyone knows all the words.

Words which, incidentally, sometimes err on the side of "stuff that happens to rhyme", although that can be deceptive. "I'd rather be lonely than by your side" ("Silver Lining") isn't exactly Westlife material, and the magnificently overwrought "You say goodbye in the pouring rain and I break down as you walk away" sounds like an A-ha video treatment. Best of all is "Wonderful Life", a tale of a suicide attempt on the Severn bridge which I take to be partially inspired by Richey Edwards of Manic Street Preachers.

Tailoring to die for, and a perpetual tug of war between passion and restraint: Hurts might be the most English band alive.

NME recently attempted to propose a New Manchester Scene, with Hurts at its forefront, even though one need only pace the Northern Quarter to know that there's never been a time when Mancunia hasn't been a prolific production line. Everything Everything have also been nominally included in this fiction, even though one of them's a Kentish lad and one of them's a Geordie. They deserve better.

The Geffen-signed quartet have chopped pop into pieces and reassembled it in new Cubist shapes, with results that are at the same time familiar and strange. On debut album Man Alive, one second you're hearing the tinkling of warm water, the next a sudden spear of ice. Their cut-up collages and concussed disco interludes suggest a British Animal Collective, or perhaps Avalanches, but neither of those comparisons quite fits.

Singer Jonathan Higgs has an airy falsetto reminiscent of Guy Garvey, but he frequently breaks into weird yelps and yodels like a market square ranter, spewing out lyrics that are so far from the familiar clichés of rock'n'roll that they must be hard to memorise, until it all comes into focus for the chorus.

A typical Everything Everything song is like a musical version of the film Inception: layers upon layers of sound, and you're never sure which is the "real", dominant one and which is a soon-vanishing dream. Close your ears and this could be any indie gig: four good-looking young men in front of a few hundred dewy-eyed students. Close your eyes instead, and suddenly Everything Everything makes sense. And, simultaneously, nonsense.

Next Week:

Simon Price waves off the departing Groove Armada at the dock, and salutes the return of British Sea Power

Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
film
Arts and Entertainment
Novelist Martin Amis at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

books
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'

After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violence

film
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams will be given a 'meaningful remembrance' at the Emmy Awards

film
Arts and Entertainment

tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Cliff Richard performs at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on 17 May 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Educating the East End returns to Channel 4 this autumn

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch will voice Shere Khan in Andy Serkis' movie take on The Jungle Book

film
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Calvin Harris performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Arts and Entertainment
Johhny Cash in 1969
musicDyess Colony, where singer grew up in Depression-era Arkansas, opens to the public
Arts and Entertainment
Army dreamers: Randy Couture, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tvReview: It's not going to set the comedy world alight but it's a gentle evening watch
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
    Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

    Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

    A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
    Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

    Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

    Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
    Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

    Nick Clegg the movie

    Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
    Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

    Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

    Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

    Waxing lyrical

    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
    Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

    Revealed (to the minute)

    The precise time when impressionism was born
    From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

    Make the most of British tomatoes

    The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
    10 best men's skincare products

    Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

    Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
    Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

    Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

    The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
    La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape