Review: The Blinders + Calva Louise + Baltic, The Cluny, Newcastle

Every so often there comes along a band who are so good you're blown away by them. The Blinders are just such a band.

The Blinders frontman Thomas Haywood performing at The Cluny. Pic: Gary Welford.
The Blinders frontman Thomas Haywood performing at The Cluny. Pic: Gary Welford.

The alternative-rock outfit were formed in Doncaster a couple of years ago, and are now based in Manchester, where they are forging a fast-growing reputation.

This gig was part of a 22-date UK tour promoting their debut album Columbia (reviewed here).

The Blinders performing at The Cluny. Pic: Gary Welford.

Loosely based around the concept of Columbia as “an alternate world informed by reality”, it is as informed by history, literature and art as by Britain’s current political and economic woes.

The trio - singer/guitarist Thomas Haywood, bassist Charlie McGough and drummer Matt Neale - are 21-year-old childhood friends who have the sort of swagger I haven't seen in years.

In fact, it's not since I first saw White Lies steal the show at the NME Tour back in 2009 that I've been so impressed by a new band.

The scenes which greeted their appearance here suggest I'm not alone, and they won't be restricted to venues this size for very long.

Young Newcastle band Baltic opening for The Blinders at The Cluny. Pic: Gary Welford.

A few words, first, about the acts who came before them, because they deserve a mention here too.

First up were Baltic, a young four-piece from Newcastle who bely the notion that guitar music is dead.

Aged just 16, they have been together for 10 months, and they wear their influences - the Arctic Monkeys, The Libertines and, dare I say it, the Rolling Stones - on their sleeve.

This was only their eighth gig, so they were understandably nervous, but they showed enough to suggest they could be in it for the long haul.

Garage-rockers Calva Louise were the main support for The Blinders at The Cluny. Pic: Gary Welford.

The main support was Calva Louise, a garage rock trio from London whose debut album Rhinoceros is due out in February.

They went down well with the impressive Tuesday night crowd, with guitar-toting Jess Alanic's vocals ranging from a whisper to a banshee-like scream.

Time then, for the main course, and it's fair to say anticipation levels were high by the time The Blinders hit the stage.

It was their second Newcastle date this year, after playing Think Tank? in February, and it's likely they've picked up a few more fans thanks to the patronage of the likes of Radio 6 Music's Steve Lamacq.

The Blinders frontman Thomas Haywood performing at The Cluny. Pic: Gary Welford.

Their slightly discomforting intro music ramped up the atmosphere so when the band hit the stage, the room was red hot, and frontman Haywood's tribal face paint - which gives the album its striking cover - immediately began to melt.

They launched straight into one of the standout tracks of the album, Gotta Get Through, prompting a sizeable mosh pit in front of the stage, and you knew straight away this was going to be a memorable gig.

Haywood becomes his alter ego of Johnny Dream as he delivers his words and lays down sheets of visceral guitar, while McGough stares into the crowd, foot on monitor, adding urgently menacing basslines, and Neale holds the whole glorious noise together.

Their energy is impressive, and is bounced right back at them by the crowd as they storm through Columbia's highlights - L’ etat C’est Moi, Hate Song, Brave New World and the stunning Rat In A Cage.

The only comedown arrives in the closing Orbit (Salmon Of Alaska), when Haywood sinks to his knees, emotionally drained, and you wonder if he's going to be able to get back up to receive his adoring fans' applause.

He does, of course, and a few moments later they are done, after a stunning 45-minute set which leaves the fans wanting more. They'll have to wait until next time - and it can't come too soon.

The Blinders singer-guitarist Thomas Haywood at The Cluny, as part of the tour for their debut album Columbia. Pic: Gary Welford.