I went to this Richard Hawley gig with the intention of reviewing the celebrated Sheffield crooner, and I can safely say that it would have been a good review. For the first time in years, though, I was excited and overwhelmed by the brilliance of the support act, Vincent Vincent and the Villains. Most people feel a twinge of annoyance when they have to stand through several support acts, but as an avid music fan, I'm always keen to see what bands lower down on the bill have to offer. Anyone who makes a point of just turning up for the main act would have missed out here.
Definitely old-school rock'*'roll, with hints of skiffle, blues, rockabilly and even flamenco sounds, this four-piece, who formed in 2003, provide a fresh and much-needed take on traditional genres. They are the kind of band that you could imagine performing in a Soho coffee bar in the 1950s and 1960s. Their snappy sartorial style (black jackets, skinny black trousers and long, flat, black lace-up shoes), and Vincent's Sun-era-Elvis-inspired dancing, also betrayed the band's beatnik, teddy-boy inspirations.
"I'm Alive" was played with an especially bass-heavy vibe, allowing the audience to appreciate the perfectly placed instrumentation. Vincent sung in an angry, distinct style reminiscent of Joe Strummer (think "London Calling"). But it was the barbershop harmonies of "On My Own" and "Blue Boy" that really engrossed. The finger-clicking, hand-clapping sound, which recalled Billy Fury and Lonnie Donegan, oozed nostalgia and a pre-Beatles aesthetic.
It's clear that this band really do care about their music, but they're not afraid to try arrangements that have the potential to work or fall flat. "At the Cinema", a song about a part-time job gone wrong, was particularly entertaining, with its blackly comic lyrics – a true reflection of authentic songwriting talent. They ended the set, appropriately, with "End of the Night", and with as much personality and energy as they had at the beginning.
Within the confines of a short slot, they made the audience wake up and take notice. They're clearly destined for bigger things. Next time I see the Vincent Vincent and the Villains, I wouldn't be surprised to find them headlining.
Lavender Dawson, artist, Sheffield