Review by Simon Saynor with Photos by Liam McEvoy

In 2015 Bang Bang Romeo played the small This Feeling stage at the Isle Of Wight Festival. John Giddings, no less, tipped them as future main stage headliners back then. Only three years later they were opening that main stage on the festival’s 50th anniversary to a record crowd for an opening act. This year sees them supporting Pink on the European leg of her world tour and the band embarking on their first headline tour. Tonight in Leeds is the last night of that tour and along with several other dates it’s a sell out. Through pure hard work and undeniable talent BBR are now a major player with their destiny firmly in their own hands.

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The tour has seen hand-picked supports and tonight it’s Leeds band Apollo Junction, another band destined for bigger things. They already have Janice Long, Steve Lamacq, Chris Hawkins and Gareth Bale (bit left-field that one) fighting their corner. Wonderfully hard to pigeonhole they play anthemic guitar/keyboard driven indie pop of the highest order. New Order comparisons have been thrown out there before but to me it’s more Hot Fuss era Killers. Either way their songs are eminently danceable and in ‘Always Remember’ have an absolute killer of a song (pun intended). It was one of my two singles of the 2018 (the other we’ll come to later). Chatting to the band post-gig (seriously nice lads) and big things are afoot for Apollo Junction. Fully deserved too. Catch them at your soonest convenience (and buy ‘Always Remember’ now).

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Bang Bang Romeo’s live shows have been touted as some of the best this country has to offer for some time now and tonight the band are out to prove why. The intro to ‘Natural Born Astronaut’ fills the room as the band climb on stage. The sartorial elegance of these guys is a whole separate review, trust me they look good. Ross Cameron’s guitar kicks in and we’re off on a journey across the rooftops of Leeds. The crowd are all over it, almost downing out singer Anastasia Walker at times. Almost. No crowd will ever have the chops to drown out Stars. It would be remiss to call her voice the band’s USP but it is a weapon. Powerful, sometimes lilting, haunting, always magnificent. But without the songs and musicianship of the band that amazing voice would be wasted. Bang Bang Romeo are unquestionably a band, a gang, a group of friends doing something they love. That they have, for me, the greatest singer currently in the UK is a bonus. ‘Bag Of Bones’ follows, Richard Cook’s bass thumping us through an anthem of self-awareness and gender politics. BBR wear their collective hearts on their sleeves at all times. Fan favourite (they’re all fan favourites really) ‘Chemical’ slows things down. Staggeringly Ross wrote this plea for love, this desperation that love is more than just a chemical reaction in his young teens. It is both uplifting and heartbreaking in equal measure. Stars looks close to tears as the packed Headrow House sing along, word perfect. It’s one of those gigs with the band on top form lifting the crowd to higher levels which in turns lifts the bands to higher levels. It’s the ultimate domino effect.

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The Headrow is a sweaty mess of bouncing bodies, the ceiling dripping onto this happy throng as the band power through the majestic ‘Adore Me’ and ‘Runaway’. Stars takes a break to mention debut their debut album (‘A Heartbreakers Guide To The Galaxy’ is released on June 14th), “This naturally means new songs”, always a worrying moment for the hardcore fan. There needn’t be any worries, ‘You Scared The Love Out Of Me’ is as good as anything the band have written, a pounding beast of a song that feels like it’s always been in the BBR canon. ‘You & I’ was my personal favourite moment from the gig, it’s currently my favourite BBR tune. Ask me tomorrow and it’ll be something totally different. Right now it’s ‘You & I’ though. That intro alone! Ross’s guitar riff is still piercing through my head two days after the gig. For me it’s the band at their most complete. Stars’ voice impeccably soaring through every heart in that room as Ross’ guitar swirls all round THAT voice, tearing the Leeds night apart. Cooky’s bass thundering into the mix as Richard Gartland’s rapid-fire drums pick off any survivors. It is wonderfully emotionally fraught. I’ve used this before but it is my favourite nightmare. Lyrically it pulls down every homophobic arsehole that ever opened their bigoted mouth. As a song it is an undeniable weapon.

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The two Richards are the backbone of Bang Bang Romeo live. They seem to have a telepathic connection knowing just when to drop, when to soar and when to throw in mind numbing fills. Never missing a beat and allowing Ross and Stars to fly. Like I said, a band at their most complete.

Title track of last year’s ‘Shame On You’ EP is the penultimate song, it’s the other one of my two singles of 2018. A song about those wrong choices that we make over and over again. And for good measure make again. It sees the band dipping into almost funk riffs though (bizarrely) it also has a gospel feel to it, whilst still rocking out. It’s a work of genius and a bona fide singalong classic. ‘Invitation’ is back as the set closer and it’s easy to see why. A bass driven monster that sees Stars demanding the crowd make way for her as she conducts the band from the pit. It’s a thunderous wall of magnificent noise, the soundtrack to the apocalypse. It is simply stunning with a climatic crescendo that brings the night to a fitting close. The crowd drained but desperate for more. Bang Bang Romeo leave nothing on stage. They give it their all every night which is why they are rightly hailed as one of the most exciting bands we have.

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Seeing them live is a must.

‘A Heartbreakers Guide To The Galaxy’ is available to pre-order now. That is also a must.

Set list:
Natural Born Astronaut
Bag of Bones
Chemical
God is a Woman/Cry Me A River (Ariana Grande/Justin Timberlake cover)
Adore Me
Runaway
You Scared The Love Out Of Me
You & I
Shame On You
Invitation

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See the full photoset from tonight’s gig here.

One Response to “Bang Bang Romeo + Apollo Junction at Headrow House, Leeds, UK – 23rd February 2019”

  1. Sylvie RAPITEAU Says:

    Apollo Junction were awesome saturday as always, I love this band so so so much, my favourite band

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