mon 25/03/2019

Friends, Coalition, Brighton | reviews, news & interviews

Friends, Coalition, Brighton

Friends, Coalition, Brighton

Revamped New York band keep it short and a little too sweet

Samantha Urbani running wild, her band lost amid a stage invasion

Samantha Urbani is one of the sassiest frontwomen in all pop, a sexy, feline creature whose polyamorous lifestyle fuels her lyrics and adds to her projected sensuality. She sits outside Brighton seafront venue Coalition, watching water-skiers ride the mill pond sea in balmy summer heat, but one whisper from a bandmate in her ear and she's onstage within a minute, attacking opening song "Shattered". She wears a faded denim jacket with a yin-yang logo on the back, a white New York baseball cap, hot pant shorts with bulbous gold trim and a necklace of giant ersatz pearls. Behind her a large LED screen announces that this is, indeed, Friends.

It is, but they've changed. Friends burst out of Brooklyn three years ago, drew hefty attention for their mightily catchy, bouncy modern love song, "I'm His Girl", then sealed their repute with last year's debut album, Manifest!, loaded to the gills with raw, rough-edged funk-pop. They seemed a perfect band, synthy enough not to be indie-dull, but punky and loaded with vim. I saw them at last year's Bestival and they lived up to this ripe, rising profile. Today, however, things take an odd turn.

The song is a wonderful mess of bashed up, shouty punk-pop

The band has changed line-up slightly, losing female bassist Lesley Hann, but their set is loaded with new songs that intimate that their sound has changed a lot more. The new material is slower, often balladic in tone and, upon a first listen, a little weedy, redolent of Madonna at the start of her career. There's only a small audience, but they're enthused fans. I'm not sure this new direction is especially welcome. Nevertheless, Urbani has enough charisma to keep things lit up through newies such as "Way Beyond Physical" and "Enlightened Love". She pushes her face into that of a male crowd member, struts about and throws off her jacket, she invites a stage invasion ("It's not our stage!") and, despite the way she races perfunctorily through Friends' best-loved song, "I'm His Girl", as if it were a duty rather than a joy, the bounding punked-up likes of "Va Fan Gör Du" and "Friend Crush" are unstoppable. There is a real atmosphere and Urbani is at the heart of it.

Suddenly, however, the quartet disappear from the stage only half an hour or so after they came on. It seems, when the sound system starts playing tunes, that the night is over. The crowd, in good-natured refusenik mode, roars it down, demanding an encore, and the band return. Now there's a real hint of wildness in the air on this hot, hot evening. Urbani says they haven't rehearsed any more songs - they have a new guitarist, perhaps the reason for the truncated set? - but they decide to have a punky, messy crack at Limp Bizkit's "Break Stuff" despite not knowing it properly.

The stage invasion finally occurs, bodies clambering over the barriers to dance about next to Urbani, and the song is a wonderful mess of bashed up, shouty punk-pop, perhaps the highlight of the evening. If Friends shortchanged us slightly, they got away with it - just - and Samantha Urbani remains a consummate pop star in waiting.

Why not indulge in the Samantha Urbani-directed, cross-dressing free-for-all that's the video for "Va Fan Gör Du"

Now there's a real hint of wildness in the air on this hot, hot evening


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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