LIVE REVIEW: Hope & Social @ ARC, Stockton (14.03.19) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Tracy Hyman

Despite their reputation as a superb live act, it’s often also noted that Hope & Social are still one of the most criminally underrated bands in Britain. Regardless of the wider world’s ignorance, right now the Leeds-based lads (and lass) are on a roll. Not only were they offered the opportunity to write their next album in the rather special surroundings of Harewood House, they’ve also secured a prestigious slot supporting Embrace at their huge Piece Hall gig in Halifax later in the year.

In contrast, tonight’s set up is much more of a tight squeeze for the eight band members, but such enforced intimacy only serves to add to both their musical performance and their onstage mischief. They shift flawlessly from mirth to maudlin and back again and, while this evening begins with some affectionate mocking of trumpet player James’ ill-fitting t-shirt, it ends on an acoustic encore of Eurospin so mesmerisingly hushed and beautiful that it leaves me with a little something in my eye.

The ease with which they switch from the ever-so-slightly chaotic fast tunes (Buzzer Goes, A Darkness Is Now Coming) to the gentler, reassuring words of Lucky Soul and Dig Hard is part of Hope & Social’s magic. Played simply on piano, guitar and drums their songs would be wonderful, but when lifted by the presence of their brass trio they become irresistibly triumphant anthems. With its handclaps and gospel-style harmonies, new track What Do You Know About Love demonstrates that the diverse sounds we’ve come to expect from the band show no sign of stopping on the next LP and that, for all the clowning around, they still retain their remarkable vocal talents and their knack for a perfect chorus.

Not even a temperamental piano or frontman Simon being full of cold can dampen their enthusiasm, and by the time all eight musicians have trooped around the entire venue to make their performance a little more up close and personal, there surely can’t be a person within left without a smile on their face.

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