Fickle Friends – Concorde 2, Brighton – 19th March 2018

Photo by Jamie MacMillan

Tonight was vindication for all those struggles, all those early shows where hardly anyone came and all the tireless hard work that Brighton’s very own Fickle Friends have put in. They may seem to be suddenly everywhere, but it has been a long road to now. With a debut album now in the bag (earning universally positive reviews) as well as their very first sell-out show at Concorde 2, it was all a far cry from their performance at The Haunt in front of a handful of people a few years back. Tonight was a victory parade, a joyous stopover at home which became as much of a party for the band as it did the crowd. In short, it was simply everything and more – marking just why this band have shot to the very top of many people’s must-see lists.

On a freezing night, Thyla were the first to warm up a frostbitten crowd. Millie Duthie possesses everything you need from a rock singer, making it impossible to tear your eyes away as she thrashed her head backwards and forwards in time with the pulsating ‘Blame’ or laid down ethereal vocals to the shoegaze anthem ‘Pristine Dream’. ‘Tell Each Other Lies’ saw shimmering guitar from Mitch Duce floating over an eruptive beat from Dan Hole (bass) and Danny Southwell (drums), before the heavier ‘I Was Biting’ and ‘Candy’ rounded off a fantastic performance. Operating at a far heavier end of indie music, Thyla show every sign of following in Fickle Friends’ footsteps on an exciting journey to wider acclaim.

More natural bedfellows for the main act were Island Club, yet another Brighton band at the top of their game. Possessing the same sort of bouncy feel-good vibes as the main act, frontman Michael Askew seemed lost in a dream state, sliding and skipping around the stage. Certainly not lacking in confidence, it was another assured performance with particular highlights being a gorgeous ‘Sober’, which drenched the venue in blue strobes and flickers and a triumphant ‘Paper Kiss’. The latter is perhaps that first killer tune that every band searches for, and it will be interesting to see what the next few months bring for this extremely likeable band.

Such is the white heat around Fickle Friends, it would take more than some mere Beast From The East to chill one of their parties. ‘Say No More’ and ‘Brooklyn’ got the night off to an unbelievable start, the irrepressible Natti strutting and bouncing all over the stage in her trademark style while guitarist Christopher Hall swaggered backwards and forwards with the widest smile imaginable. The image of the band grinning to each other throughout the show will be something that lasts long in the memory for many, as it symbolised such a joy and real pleasure for this special band on a very special hometown show.

‘Wake Me Up’ swiftly followed, and it quickly became apparent just how many stone-cold bangers that Fickle Friends have accumulated in a short span of time. Though You Are Someone Else understandably dominated proceedings, there was still time for a couple of older tracks in ‘Cry Baby’ and ‘Vanilla’, proving that this group have got plenty still in reserve. Jack Wilson was bent so far over his keyboard by this point that he was in danger of toppling into the wild crowd, but such was the passion exuding from the front row he would have been quickly swept up to safety. Harry Herrington showcased that funky 80s-tinged bass sound that Fickle Friends have perfected but, in truth, every member of the band really shone through. It was all topped off of course by one of the most charismatic figureheads in the indie-pop world right now.

It’s hard to take your eyes away from Natti Shiner when she is in full flow, and tonight there were even shades of the pop greats like Madonna. It is perhaps her open nature with her fans that defines her the most, however, whether she was explaining the story behind ‘Hard To Be Myself’ or throwing herself into ‘Heartbroken’ (her album favourite apparently), she was never anything less than fully engaged with her audience. Before the final flourish of ‘Swim’, she took time to thank a group of fans who had formed a community around the band’s music and had journeyed from all parts of the country in order to be together tonight.

It summed everything up beautifully that on perhaps the biggest and most important night of Fickle Friends’ career to date, she finished the show deep in the crowd with a communal chorus of: “You are not alone / for the last time I am sure”. There is literally no limit to how big Fickle Friends can be, but one thing is for sure – although tonight felt like the ending of one journey, this is just the beginning of a much bigger one.

Jamie MacMillan

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