LIVE REVIEW: Hope & Social @ ARC, Stockton (19.10.17) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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350 words sounds like a lot until you sit down to try and convey the wonders of a Hope & Social gig in such a limited space. For starters there are eight of them on stage, resplendent in blue jackets, including a brass section. Then there are the many other instruments they swap between alongside the usual guitars and drums – including a banjo, a sousaphone and some extra plastic trumpets and trombones just for good measure. If that all sounds a lot to take in, as well as latest album Feel and their own vast back catalogue they’re fond of throwing the odd cover version into the middle of their songs – tonight’s being a brilliant version of Once in a Lifetime by Talking Heads with bassist Fletch on vocals, which then segues seamlessly back into the jubilant chorus of Red Red Rose.

After the interval, rather than taking to the stage, all eight musicians come marching through the rear door of the auditorium playing By the Morning Dew. Harking back to their ‘street band’ gigs at Durham BRASS Festival this summer, they perform this track and Come What May down in the crowd utilising front row audience members as microphone stands and chairs. Such interaction and entertainment is the perfect demonstration of just why the Leeds band are so cherished by their fans – and in today’s world more than ever. The risk of writing hard-hitting lyrics about current events is that they often end up dry or depressing but Hope & Social’s words remain rousing and uplifting, a reminder to focus on the positives and, as Ripples Rock My Boat suggests, “count our blessings and lucky stars“.

There are gorgeous three part harmonies during Cotton Wool, laugh-out-loud moments during Buzzer Goes and glorious audience singalongs during the rousing Family Man and One Way Home. Most importantly, all of the above is done with a slightly shambolic sense of fun and the band are never afraid to take the mick out of themselves (or each other) when the opportunity arises, which simply adds to the evening’s infectious joy.

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