Live Review: The Rocket Summer – Basement 2, Newcastle University, May 20th 2010

The last time The Rocket Summer came to the North East in February 2008, Bryce Avary and friends managed to sell out the Academy 2, and after a two year absence and the release of his most successful record to date, Of Men and Angels, you’d think they’d do just as well, if not more so, this time round… But, no. This is Newcastle in 2010.

The charming Matthew P starts the night off in a rather tranquil manner with his quirky acoustic numbers and serene voice. While it seems he is falling on deaf ears, with the majority talking over, those in attendance gradually seem to warm to the young man from Suffolk, with his cheeky banter and poster-boy looks, playing some delightful tunes from his EP Swimming.

It’s been a rough few months for Welsh pop-punks Save Your Breath, following the departure of their frontman, but new vocalist Kris Richards is complete reassurance that they’re even stronger and tighter as a band, as they belt out their popcore anthems, while also boasting their new single, the more sugary Stay Young. A charismatic and fun performance, as the quintet even manage to get some movement from the 50 or so that have turned up tonight.

Despite the dismal turnout, The Rocket Summer’s spirits are hardly dampened as Bryce Avary greets the crowd with a Cheshire cat-like grin, beginning the forthcoming and jam-packed hour-and-a-half with Hills and Valleys. It’s a diverse set, full piano-driven, soulful rock and roll, with the likes of oldies such as Cross My Heart, the feel-good Brat Pack, and the emotionally-charged Wall; keeping both the old and new-school fans happy.

Bryce’s multi-instrumental talent truly shines as he “makes up a new song on the spot”, solely taking to the drums, keyboard, bass and guitar to record a few loops, building into an impressive tune, before leading into the favourite Break It Out, as the rest of his band members return for an electric performance.

Adding to the incredibly intimate appeal of tonight, Bryce makes his way to the centre of the audience to cover the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, before asking to be crowd-surfed back to the stage. There’s no doubt that this Texan has such a compellingly close relationship with his fans, as he takes a photo of the crowd to add to his Facebook page.

In a unique encore, Bryce returns to deliver a melody of various tunes from his back catalogue, chosen by those in attendance, including Never Knew and Colours, before wrapping things up with an all-out sing-a-long to So Much Love; a completely flawless performance, let’s just hope that there will be more to witness it next time…

Faye Turnbull.

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