Toy Horses - Lock 42, Leicester
Posted by Kuang on Wed, 13 Apr 2011.
It’s a busy night at Lock 42 in Leicester, with three local bands turning out to support Welsh indie-pop five piece Toy Horses on their UK tour. Toy Horses have been ruffling feathers across the Atlantic with their eponymous debut album and a lot of favourable airplay so tonight is a great chance to see them in an intimate venue before things really take off.
First up is Find Pocket Girl, AKA Adam Dunmore – a solo acoustic guitarist with a fine line in chirpy yet introspective story-driven pop. Kicking off with a cover of Cecilia by Simon & Garfunkel* it’s clear that he’s fighting both the sound system and the rumble of bands practicing next door. Fortunately he manages to turn things up a notch with a bouncy, almost percussive style that cuts through the room. There are echoes of Elliot Smith and early Radiohead in Adam’s lyrics; a sense of uncertainty balanced off against conviction and heart, with a subtle sense of humour to tie it all together. Anyone who can deliver a love song to an old pair of trainers with a straight face is clearly a force to be reckoned with. Keep a look out for him at the city’s more acoustic friendly venues.
Next we have the Jack Kenworthy Band (which I’m informed is a working title, and may change), who turn out to be a phenomenally talented acid-funk three piece with heavy soul overtones. High energy is the key here, with an energised and emotive delivery that calls acts like Black Gold and Jamiroquai to mind. They’re right at home with constantly switching gears – deep and soulful one minute, explosive and heart-wrenching the next – aided by a punchy, tight rhythm section. Jack’s voice is perhaps the biggest surprise, showing amazing versatility and depth even when its owner is bashing seven shades out of a variety of instruments. Without wanting to overload on hyperbole, I reckon you could stick these lads in front of an arena crowd opening for Jay Kay and they’d win them over. Someone needs to sign them as soon as possible.
Toy Horses take to the stage next after spending the whole gig watching and enjoying the support acts. Kicking off with Damage Done they’re on top form from the start, with a subtle Lennon-esque darkness rolling under sweet melodies and a carefully measured delivery. Pausing only for Adam to apologise for recovering from a lost voice (Tom: And tell them why you lost your voice.’ Adam: ‘… excess.’) they deliver a perfect one-two pop punch in the form of debut single ‘And It Was You’ followed by ‘Love At An Arm’s Length’; the former dissolving into a glorious wave of melodic chaos towards the end, the latter bruised and wounded but still defiant.
The band keep a great balance between delivering the songs with passion and attitude, and falling back into extremely relaxed and friendly banter with each other and the crowd – even to the extent of trying to incite a ‘merch war’ between Leicester and York by telling us how much stuff they bought the night before. ‘Sordid Little World’ makes a welcome appearance next, a dark and tragic little tale of misplaced love, with a fiery heart. The feelgood stomper ‘Loyal to the Cause’ balances this out perfectly; strangely enough I thought this sounded a little ‘fledgeling’ on the album compared to some of the deeper tracks, but live it makes a lot of sense and becomes more playful. They wind the show to a close with current single ‘Interrupt’, with Adam fighting his rapidly failing voice; no damage done though, it’s a cracking pop song with a sunburst chorus, and a rocking outro that wraps things up just right. Toy Horses are widely tipped for greatness, and on the evidence of tonight I think the critics have nailed it.
Note: At this point I had to leave, so I missed local band The Ferris closing the show. I can only apologise for this – I’ve since listened to the songs on their profile and can say that they’re a cracking indie rock act reminiscent of that great time in the early 90s when Diesel Park West and That Petrol Emotion were around. Go and see for yourself – http://www.myspace.com/theferrisband
* Also, cheers to Adam for pointing out that I was in a Beatles mindset last night and accidentally credited Cecilia to them instead :)