Review + Photography by John Hayhurst

Feel Good Indie Rock – Albert Hammond Jr offers some kind Strokes in Manchester.

It’s a difficult job for a rhythm/lead guitarist from a highly successful worldwide band to make it as a solo artist. Like Carl Barat without his oppo in The Libertines, you are reduced to playing drastically smaller venues and releasing introspective, much more personal but probably less commercial albums, with various collective friends and acquaintances forming members of your live band.

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Albert Hammond Jr, for those unaware was a major part of The Strokes, and whilst we believe they are at least still talking to each other, there is no sign of a reunion anytime soon. The principal leader of the band and singer – Julian Casablancas, is still involved with his ‘Voidz’ side project. As a result a fully cleaned up AHJ is continuing his earnest work ethic, still promoting his 4th solo studio album ‘Francis Trouble’ by playing a few smaller venues in the UK, he last came to these parts only last year as support to Franz Ferdinand.

The entrance is cool, a taped speaking/shouting intro and the band file out to a few whoops and a “C’mon Albert” from the few that may be aware of what they are likely to witness. But if you are expecting to hear a few Strokes classics, well – you will be sorry, it’s not happening. However, if you want to see a performance where the artist gives his all, plays some quite pleasant indie quirky blues tracks with energy and sweat – then you’re in and you are going to enjoy tonight.

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Frequently picking a riff from his Fender and collection of pedals on stage. He swaps guitar for straight frontman mic antics, occasionally dropping to his knees, shaking his mop of curly hair. It isn’t long before the suit jacket is off and he’s out in the audience to interact with Club Academy patrons.

Tracks like ‘Born Slippy’ (No not the Underworld version!) are full of swagger and AHJ is the epitome of cool uni indie rock, if uni indie rock was still a thing. Weirdly the audience tonight are a mixture of older Strokes fans and a large percentage of uni student kids on a night out, it’s a reasonable match but they remain fairly muted at the worthy efforts he’s making.

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Early standout track was ‘Set to Attack’ and if there was anything tonight that really sounded like The Strokes, that was it.

Most of the ‘Francis Trouble’ album was played, this is the most personal record he has ever made, written largely about his search for identity through the loss of his stillborn twin brother Francis.  A deep subject – and vocal-wise, Albert flits between wild and untamed, to concise and direct with supreme ease, a testament to his ability and confidence to be front and centre while wielding everything he’s got. He launched into ‘Caught by My Shadow’ which has the sublime lyrics “two wrongs don’t make a right, three rights make a left”, and then his female bass player momentarily loses herself during ‘Side Boob’ and AJH powers on regardless.

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Climbing around the side of the stage during ‘Far Away Truths’ he managed to get some crowd reaction and singalong for ‘Rocky’s Late Night’ and ‘In Transit’.

After the drummer went to town on his kit for a few minutes we get a cover of Guided By Voices – ‘Postal Blowfish’ and a blistering ‘Muted Beatings’ brings everything to a close.

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That’s a decent sized setlist for a solo artist, you really felt like you got your £15 worth even if most of the lighting on stage was non-existent and this venue was one of the poorest I’ve seen in Manchester, a basement of the other 3 much better Academy venues. While a few fans may have been more familiar with every single song, singing along to the entire set, AJH puts on the type of show that keeps an audience captivated for the entire show, it’s never boring and everyone escaped their troubles for the night for some feel good indie rock.

✮ ✮ ✮ ✩ ✩ 3/5

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SETLIST: DvsL / Rude Customer / Set to Attack / Caught by My Shadow / Side Boob / St. Justice / Far Away Truths / Born Slippy / GfC Drunched in Crumbs / Rocky’s Late Night / Holiday / Carnal Cruise / In Transit / Tea for Two / Hard to Live (In the City) / Screamer / ENCORE: Postal Blowfish / Everyone Gets a Star / Muted Beatings

LISTENING: ‘Francis Trouble’ album released March 2018

WATCHING: Set to Attack video

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