Freedom of the City at the Dublin Castle
Straight out of Manchester and onstage at Camden’s Dublin Castle on the 28th February, for a now customary headline gig, alternative rock, four-piece Freedom of the City are determined to win over the capital one fan at a time.
“London audiences are a lot more appreciative and open-minded than most”, muses lead singer George Brown before the show. “Back in Manchester, people are generally only interested in the band they came to see; we frequently see rooms empty out completely and fill up again in the space of fifteen minutes, depending on who’s playing. Whereas here, crowds tend to try and get their money’s worth, which is good news for other bands on the bill!”
Eager to please the small but plucky turnout, Freedom of the City let rip with an opening salvo of songs full of tricky riffs and lock-groove beats that initially call to mind The Music and early Pumpkins-indebted Feeder. Unavoidably, the spectre of Oasis looms large throughout in the twin-guitar attack and twang of the vocals, and although the band manage to downplay any sonic resemblance to their Mancunian brethren, new song Raindrops features a guitar solo straight out of Be Here Now. Brown’s larynx-shredding vocals are a blunt but effective weapon – wholly unsuitable for the attempted falsetto of Raindrops for example, but fantastic over a soaring chorus.
And there were many of those present and correct in last night’s set, with Firelights being the most stirring specimen – it could yet prove to be the group’s Maps and help them break into the mainstream.
There are times when the limited response from the crowd seems to play on the band’s mind, their trademark groove and harmonies getting a little ragged every once in a while. Wasted in particular, is a rueful ode to a splitting hangover, and sounds like one too. Now’s The Time sounds, as ever, like a righteous statement of intent, a furious funk workout reminiscent of the Afghan Whigs. In a remarkable change of pace, Find You provides a moving power ballad moment amid the mayhem – essentially Snow Patrol’s Chasing Cars with a pulse. As Brown explains, “We’ve reached a point where we can tailor our set according to the crowd we play to, whether it’s a heavy gig in Birmingham or an acoustic show in London.”
So as the evening draws to a close and more headway is made in the Freedom of the City fan recruitment drive, where to now for the band? Says Brown: “We’ve finished recording our debut album, which has taken about a year, but it’s out of our hands now as to when it gets released. It’s a good representation of the band as a live entity, and similarly our live show has benefited from the recording process as well. We have short-term, four to six month goals and at the moment are taking each gig as it comes. Obviously we want to be… [Interviewer: “bigger than Jesus?”] Exactly! But the most we can do for now is try and win over as many people as we can at each concert, be on time, make sure to thank everyone for coming along and do our best”. Tonight at least, they’ve done Manchester, and themselves, proud.
Photos: Chiara Ceccaioni