Tonight is the biggest night of Larkin’s career so far. The Manchester four-piece have successfully sold out the 700 capacity venue but most importantly, they’ve sold out their biggest headline show to date. As the audience gradually pile in, support acts The Nix and Corella give remarkable performances, setting the mood and getting the crowd excited and energised for the main event.
As the room darkens and the stage is lit with flashing strobe lights, Larkins file on one by one, picking up their instruments for opening number Velvet. For many bands, playing a headline sold out show would be a daunting prospect, but any nerves that may have been felt were kept firmly hidden. Velvet sets the bar high and the live performance is notably made better than the studio version by frontman Josh Noble’s vocal ad libbing between verses.
Next is Athena, the first upbeat track of the night, which sees the audience dancing enthusiastically and leaves Noble smiling from ear to ear. “Manchester, this is the best night of our lives,” he acknowledges halfway through the song. “Thank you for being here. We’re gobsmacked.” It’s understandable that the 21-year-old is left grinning, seeing as playing this venue has been a dream for him since he was at school. The journey to playing this headline show may not have been an easy one, but the difficulty of balancing university work, a part time job and band commitments appears to fully pay off tonight.
A different side to the band is shown in the opening of Squeeze, as tight a cappella harmonies resonate around the room. With nothing to support their vocals, the band are at their most vulnerable, with only each other there for support, however, the brave opening is a success and the crowd respond with well-deserved admiration. A change in pace now appears in the form of Riverbed, a much slower track compared to the usual riff heavy, up tempo songs which Larkins have become well known for. The lyrics, “it hurts like hell” echo around the room, followed by more of Noble’s ad libs, which are well-received by the hundreds of people intently listening.
A stand-out moment of the show is a cover of Chaka Khan’s Ain’t Nobody. The classic hit has a funk infused indie vibe, making it so different that it could even be mistaken for an original song. The mood turns sexier in the bridge as Noble’s raspy voice utters, “at first you put your arms around me, then you put your charms around me”, mixing with the delicate accompaniment from lead guitarist Dom Wanty. The audience are enjoying every minute of the cover, getting down with the rhythm and singing the lyrics right back at the band.
Larkins and mosh pitting are not two things you’d necessarily put together, but tonight proves that as long as a crowd is having a good time, a mosh pit can be formed at any gig, whatever the genre of music may be. As the pre-chorus of The Tale of Cassandra begins, a group of 30 odd people get into position, ready for the inevitable. As the chorus starts, the group start to mosh, with scenes similar to those at a headline set at Leeds Festival. A 40-odd year old man is caught up in the middle of the pit, but surprises everyone by fully committing, despite being the oldest one in there by a couple of decades. The enthusiasm from the crowd continues into fan favourite Hit and Run, as people dance, sat on each other’s shoulders, whilst beer is thrown around left, right and centre.
The ‘final’ song, as Noble jokes, is their latest single Wasted Years, which is brimming with attitude. Halfway through, Noble smiles at his fellow bandmates, obviously pleased with the crowd’s reaction in front of him. It really is remarkable for a young, up and coming Manchester band to receive such a joyous reception. It’s undeniable that the band have a collection of great songs, are very talented musically and have a strong presence on stage, but the reaction from the crowd during this song really is of something similar to a chart-topping band making a comeback after a decade away from the spotlight. It’s a huge compliment and the boys deserve to be pleased given the hard work that’s been put in to bring them to Gorilla tonight.
After “Manchester, la la la” and “we want more” chants finish resonating around the room, Noble reappears with just an acoustic guitar, stepping to the front of the stage to ask everyone to be silent for an unplugged rendition of Sapphire. Although this isn’t greeted with much success as a loud murmur of chatting continues, Noble begins the song. As he stands exposed with just his guitar to accompany his vocals, the audience members closest to him listen intently and sing along to the emotional lyrics. Before long, the rest of the members take to the stage and restart the song, which is a self-confessed favourite of the band. As the song ends and the applause reaches its peak, Noble thanks the audience saying, “Manchester you have been absolutely incredible,” before leaving the stage.
Given that Larkins are a young band trying to make a name for themselves in arguably the country’s musical capital city, the four-piece really do stand out as a group who mean business. Tonight they play a standout show, one that is up there with some of the best performances that Gorilla has hosted. Their hard work and dedication is inspiring and it is because of this that they deserve every inch of success that is thrown their way.