Every once in a while you get a band which soundtrack a generation. More often that not you get a band which tries to soundtrack a generation. The Midland’s current biggest export The Enemy, have been accused of both of these scenarios over the last few years and tonight should be an indication of which line they fall into. It is fair to say that enigmatic frontman Tom Clarke always has some critique on society and the state of the music industry which is commendable. There are elements of a young Joe Strummer and Paul Weller burning deep within him which makes him great to watch and gives him an eye for a smart lyric.
Tonight is the second of two homecoming shows in Coventry which are launching the band’s third album, the rather excellent ‘Streets In The Sky’. Twitter has been alight all day with comments of how great last night’s show was. I personally haven’t seen The Enemy live since they headlined the NME Tour at Wolverhampton Civic Hall. I walked out of it too after a bad experience and admittedly I was a bit apprehensive of returning tonight. On the other hand the new album has excited me greatly and I could not wait to get there – talk about mixed emotions!
The night starts with a sour bump as there is an issue with the press pass, but none the less it is sorted after an hour and a half… I missed the first support act (The Kontours) and arrived just in time for second support The Antics to take to the stage. They were incredibly entertaining and warmed the crowd up perfectly. Even their mid set cover of The Farm’s ‘All Together Now’ was a highlight. These guys have great potential and I am sure will be kicking up a fuss sooner rather than later!
So onto the main act, as the lights dim Oasis’ ‘Fuckin’ In The Bushes’ tears out over the PA and sends the crowd into a frenzy. The band casually stroll on stage, arms aloft signalling a call to arms and that they are ready for this. Tom picks up his guitar and the band kick off with a fraught and energetic version of recent single ‘Gimme The Sign’. Within seconds there are a few pints flying around and crowd surfers. One thing to be said for these boys is that they know how to put on a show. They are full of energy and whip the crowd up into a controlled frenzy. As they blast out old favourites ‘Aggro’ and ‘Had Enough’ there are elements of their debut shows coming back. Something I feel they lost with their second album, this is raw and just powered rock n’ roll.
Newer material such as single ‘Saturday’, ‘Bigger Cages (Longer Chains)’ and ‘1-2-3-4 Ready To Go’ sound glorious and sit perfectly with the older material. As a launch show for the new record there is a perfect blend of tracks, but for me it is the newer material which stands out. The audience tonight are great to watch, singing along perfectly word for word the new songs with the band, finger pointing and cheering at every opportunity. It is clear their fans adore them, and in return The Enemy have never been shy about the love they have for their fans either. As Tom points out tonight, “If it wasn’t for you guys who buy the records and the tickets and just support us, we wouldn’t enjoy this half as much as we do”.
Although the main focus is on frontman Clarke, the driving force of the band is the rhythmic duo of bass player Andy Hopkins and drummer Liam Watts. During each track Andy backs Tom up on vocals and approaches the front of the stage screaming into the audience with elation and holding his bass aloft, even reaching forward to shake the hands of the occasional crowd surfer. Liam is tucked away at the back of the stage but his drumming thunders around the room. His playing on ‘No Time For Tears’ is stunning. Where the power comes from in this lad is unknown, but we are very thankful for it.
We get a very touching rendition of ‘Happy Birthday Jane’ which sees the room swaying slightly and singing along in unison. Next comes possibly the best track The Enemy have recorded to date and my personal highlight of the night ‘This Is Real’. Everything about the track on record sounds great but live it is a beast. I can see this progressing to a main set closer in time, it is a proper call to arms type track and could be read on so many levels. Pointing out the reality of the state of the nation and it’s economy, it is not a dream, we are actually living this. The set closes on ‘This Song’. As the song fades out the audience are singing. Tom tells the audience to keep singing and they’ll be back soon, to which they willingly obey. It does morph into Coventry City Football chants as the band return.
The encore is made up of an acoustic led ‘We’ll Live & Die In These Towns’ which is dedicated to Coventry. I have not heard a crowd sing along like this for years, it is something very special indeed. The night finishes on a high energy version of ‘You’re Not Alone’ which is dedicated to everyone here tonight. The band thank various people and launch into the song. As the track finishes they applaud the audience and disappear. I said at the start that they fall into two categories, tonight they prove why they should be the voice of their generation. The reaction of the crowd and the dedication of the fans is unprecedented. These guys deserve to be bigger and will get bigger, but one thing is for sure, they will always do it for us, the fans, the music lovers and above all, for Coventry. Top class night all round.