The Big Moon: Review

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The Big Moon justified their ever-growing reputation on Monday night (9 October 2017), overcoming an initially static and expectant Sugarmill crowd to reach a well-deserved roaring finale.

Faced with a somewhat muted reaction in the opening of their set, as a weary-eyed audience looked on, the London four-piece completely transformed what was a nervous atmosphere in the opening minutes with a stylish and energetic performance. Their prowess on the live stage undeniable, throughout.

The Sugarmill has forged itself into a worthy proving ground for Britain’s brightest up-and-comers, boasting recent alumni, Bring Me The Horizon, Catfish and the Bottlemen, and The 1975 – all bands that have elevated themselves to new heights in recent times. With a capacity of just 400, however, all stood strikingly close to the front of stage, there is nowhere to hide.

Fortunately, the band seemed to revel in the pressure, exuding both a mixture of the dark, haunting riffs that have encapsulated Alex Turner’s writing post-Shadow Puppets (‘Hold This’), broken up intermittently by pop hooks, and an occasional comedic delivery firmly rooted within The Libertines’ work (‘Happy New Year’).

Despite their influences, there was a distinctly unique quality in The Big Moon’s performance, stemming from the vocals of lead singer Juliette Jackson; a voice that succeeded effortlessly in looping, arching over the band’s stop-start, sprinting sound — a staple of their Mercury-nominated debut album Love In The 4th Dimension, released in April.

Jackson expertly controlled the show’s tempo throughout. Picture by Jeremy Patrick.

Time and again, the joyous freedom, projected out from crowd favourites such as ‘Happy New Year’, ‘The End’, and ‘Pull The Other One’, was interjected by the contemplative pauses provided by ‘The Road’, ‘Zeds’, and the album’s titular track.

Though, whether the familiarity of the Radio One playlist hits; the angst felt in those more hard-hitting; or the songs that allowed the crowd to recoup their energy, whilst subtly tempting the student-heavy crowd forward; all succeeded in bringing the audience closer together.

A growing nucleus had begun to congregate at the front of the stage, prior to the all-female foursome launching into a powerful cover of Bonnie Tyler’s ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’.

The song became a triumphant celebration. A declaration that this crowd was finally theirs, as young and old sang in jubilant unision. Yet, after allowing their captive audience another brief respite with ‘Something Beautiful’, the best was still to come.

“I’m melting” was a line that could be heard bellowing around the room earlier in the night during ‘The End’, and the Stoke crowd had certainly warmed up to The Big Moon, as Jackson continued to grow in confidence as a performer. The rejuvenated crowd eagerly awaited their final four songs, as sweat began to form on brows.

‘I’m gonna get this perfectly right…’ was the opening line of this closing quartet. Apt, as ‘Cupid’ helped the band continue to ride their post-Bonnie wave. ‘Sucker’, one of the band’s most successful songs to date, closed the show, providing the perfect route to a hard-fought crescendo. In between, Jackson had climbed down from the stage to dance with fans during ‘Bonfire’, with the singer’s performance getting ever-more elaborate as the night progressed.

Bassist Celia Archer with Jackson: the band’s visible chemistry helped bring the Stoke crowd onside. Picture by Jeremy Patrick.

It was the remaining song, ‘Formidable’, though, that best symbolised The Big Moon’s fluid style. Its opening slow-motion riff was perfectly befitting of Jackson’s habitually eerie, elongated vocals; the tempo gently rising, before moving seamlessly to a softly-spoken, yet inescapably catchy chorus, hinged on the breezy backing vocals provided by guitarist, Soph Nathan and bassist, Celia Archer.

Just over a minute in, however, and drummer, Fern Ford connected with a sequence to take the audience on its third journey in under two minutes, transforming the song once more, from upbeat pop chorus to grunge and back again in a matter of seconds.

The anthemic ‘Formidable’ is a statement of intent from The Big Moon. Images of fans atop of shoulders in the summer months flashed through the mind, as fans pointed skywards in full voice, embracing their part in this celebration.

Boasting an original style, The Big Moon are gifted live performers; the lesser-known of this year’s Mercury nominees, they are a band of boundless potential. A fact only cemented by this glorious display. The words “I’ll be formidable” are still ringing around The Sugarmill: more than a simple rallying cry to fans, this is a warning.

 

 

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