GIG REVIEW: The Twang at Newcastle O2 Academy

Updated: Apr 9, 2019

It’s a cold December’s evening in the North-East City of Newcastle as people begin to descend on the famed O2 Academy. They’re all here for one thing, to revel and rejoice in that infectious vibe that is The Twang.

It’s been ten years since the release of their iconic debut album, ‘Love It When I Feel Like This’, and now a decade later, the Birmingham gang have arrived back in the toon to play the record in its entirety for the first time. Was it worth the wait? Undoubtedly.

The doors to the venue are yet to open, nevertheless, there’s already something in the air. One of those feelings that settles on the back of your neck like morning dew, and makes your stomach do a little dance in anticipation of what’s to come.

The album may be old, but the night is young. As people spill out onto the pavement from a nearby pub, it’s clear to see that the Twang’s loyal army of followers are ready, armed with a pint, a smoke and an appetite for organised chaos.

Inside the O2 it’s a little anti-climactic.  The task of warming the stage falls to Birmingham bands, The Assist and Sugarthief, who have played a number of shows intermittently on the anniversary tour. It’s only early, but it’s a shame to see that limited people have turned out to enjoy the support acts.

As The Assist take to the stage, they deliver a 30-minute-long set filled with fantastic melodies and tasty riffs. The band look as though they could well have sprung from a time machine backstage, taking onlookers on a welcoming cathartic journey back into 2007. Thankfully, as their set draws to a close, the venue begins to gradually fill and they receive the applause they deserve.

Indie four-piece Sugarthief are a little luckier in the respect that the crowd is now beginning to gather. That earlier feeling of anticipation has returned, and as the Carlsberg flows, the atmosphere begins to amplify.

Treating revellers to another 30-minute blistering set, the Brummy band smash out crowd-pleasing tracks that bare resemblance to the likes of ‘Empire Of The Sun’ and ‘Two Door Cinema Club’; both indie bands born of the same era as The Twang. As they leave the stage the hype is building, their job is done, and they appear to have loved it just as much as the crowd.

Looking around, it’s amazing to see such an array of ages amongst the crowd. One particular gig-goer, 16-year-old Ashleigh, shared the story of how she was introduced to The Twang:

“My brother used to listen to them when I was a kid. I always remember hearing this album blasting out from under his bedroom door, and our mam going mad. I just kinda grew into them over the years.
“I’ve been looking forwards to tonight for so long! My brother’s gutted cause he’s travelling. I think he would actually rather be here!”

The fact that Ashleigh was merely 6 years old when ‘Love It When I Feel Like This’ was released just reinstates the unique power that music has. The Twang are still to this day gathering new fans, and playing music that will forever evoke memories, new and old. It’s a truly beautiful phenomenon.

As the arrival of The Twang draws closer, revellers become increasingly excitable. Indie anthems from years passed bellow from the sound system, as the crowd pour every inch of their soul into singing each chorus. At 9:30pm, the band walk onto the stage with that undeniable swagger they’re so renowned for. They need no introduction, and waste no time in plunging into their first track of the night, ‘Barney Rubble’, from their second album ‘Jewellery Quarter’.

Prior to the tour, frontman Phil Etheridge teased at the prospect of “Chucking in a few other tracks and B-sides”, and it seems he’s stayed true to his word. Throughout the next half hour, they plough through countless tracks from their body of work, each and every one is met with a sea of cheers and rapturous praise. If there’s one thing said for this band, they know how to throw a party! Seven tracks in, and Etheridge has his first chat with the crowd:

“You alright Newcastle? Good good! I’m alright, I’m having fun! Gonna have a little bit more now! Have a little dance.

Without further ado, a cover of Bran Van 3000’s iconic track, ‘Drinking In LA’, begins to blare through the speakers, thus resulting in the first mass sing-a-long of the night. Etheridge stands in the spotlight of the stage, sporting a Nikey jumper with a beanie hat, and waving his hands in a motion as if to say

“Let’s have it!”
“Newcastle! We’re gonna nip out for a quick cig. Then we’re gonna come back and do the album. I mean, that’s why we’re here ain’t it, so… we’ll see you in a bit.”

Suitably hyped for the album playback, the crowds rush to the nearby bars and smoking area to get their quick fix before the band return. It could be the music or the alcohol, maybe both? But the whole building is bouncing, as inaudible football-style chants ring through the air. In the smoking area, two local lads are proudly showing off their custom-made Twang t-shirts, whilst incessantly mocking one another.

“Who introduced you to them? Who bought you the ticket? This lad’s been to three fu**in’ gigs and he thinks he’s Liam Gallagher, y’know what I mean?
“These are one of the most underrated bands of all time, I’ve seen them ten years ago but tonight they’re on fire, man!”

As the crowd re-gather inside, they become even lairier. Knowing what’s to come, they begin to chant the words to ‘Ice Cream Sundae’ repetitively, the first track from the album. Fresh from their nicotine buzz, the lads give the crowd what they want, and as the first few chords of the tune ring out, the place descends into brilliant chaos.

The opening song is followed by debut hit single ‘Wide Awake’, and it’s safe to say, everyone most definitely is. As the stewards at the front try to deal with the numerous, sweat-drenched bodies being thrown over the barrier after their crowd surfing escapades, Etheridge looks on; amused. It’s been so long since the band performed some of these tracks, he has a laugh with the crowd:

“I hadn’t played this tune in ages. I had to murder him and bury him in the garden, and he’s stayed there ever since. But, for tonight I’m gonna get the little fu**er out. Raise him from the dead, so here he is!”

Their chemistry can’t be denied, as they erupt into one of their most witty, humorous creations, ‘The Neighbour’. Accompanying singer Martin Saunders stands at the front, egging the crowd on with his indisputable charisma, as Etheridge moves from one side of the stage to the other, almost immersing himself in the swarm of people below.

The bands second single ‘Either way’ is widely regarded as the tune that catapulted The Twang into the mainstream radar. In an earlier interview, the band addressed their respect for the song:

“I guess ‘Either Way’ is the track that changed our lives and you can kinda see what it means to people when we play it; which is always pretty special.’”

And special it was, as the whole crowd poured their soul and emotions into singing the words into the atmosphere, almost as if their life depended on it. A pretty extraordinary moment to bare witness to. The whole album is brought to life through the means of Etheridge’s lairy vocals. His rough, coarse voice combined with a subtle gentleness. A voice that speaks to a working-class collective, destroying social barriers and evoking messages of hope.

As the gig draws to a close, the emotion portrayed on frontman Phil’s face can’t be denied as he addresses his adoring sea of fans one last time.

“Thanks man, it means so much to us I can’t say it enough. Honestly, thank you. We’ll see you again somewhere, I don’t know, who knows, man?
“But til’ the next time, be good, be safe and be whatever the f**k you wanna be, and we’ll see you on the flipside, yeah?”

As the opening bars to the final track ‘Cloudy Room’ begin to kick in, people seem to find one last surge of energy before they hit the road. The flashing of the strobe lights reveals countless silhouettes of glasses filled with questionable liquids flying through the air. The whole venue erupts into a chorus of “let’s just fly”, and everyone inside has a rare moment where they feel as though they actually could.

The Twang may not be as popular as critics once predicted they would be, but this gig made everyone beg the question, why? They defied expectations and delivered an energetic set, littered with humour, love and most importantly, iconic tracks that will forever be in the hearts of their loyal following.

After all, that’s what music is all about, isn’t it?

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