Photographs and Review by John Bentley

The House of Love emerged with real promise in the late 1980s, with a great new guitar sound and terrific songs, only to prematurely split after making some magnificent records. I never saw them back in those heady days, but fortunately the key members are now back together on the road for a short tour making great music again.

The House of Love @ Sound Control, Manchester, 8-4-13

The House of Love’s often melancholy songs were written by singer and guitarist Guy Chadwick and were made rather special by the guitar playing of Terry Bickers. Bickers developed a distinctive trebly shimmering guitar style that made their sound instantly recognisable. For a brief period around 1987-8 they seemed to be on the road to huge success, being signed to Creation Records and having the number 1 record in John Peel’s Festive Fifty chart at Christmas 1988, with ‘Destroy the Heart’. Their acclaimed first album, ‘The House of Love’, was a very strong collection of songs that is now regarded as a classic and has recently been re-issued with extra tracks – their best work and a record well worth tracking down.
However, things rapidly unravelled due to conflicting egos, an ill-advised signing with a major record label and the usual things that lead to things going wrong with bands. Bickers left in 1989 and while the band continued into the 1990s and made some good music, they never achieved the big success that had seemed assured.

The House of Love @ Sound Control, Manchester, 8-4-13

Anyway, the good news is that Chadwick, Bickers and original drummer Pete Evans have reunited (with new bass player Matt Jury) and have released a well-received new album, ‘She Paints Words in Red’. After the original acrimonious split of the two key band members it’s great to see them playing together on stage tonight and obviously really enjoying their gig. Age, experience and maturity are a great healer!

The House of Love @ Sound Control, Manchester, 8-4-13

Sound Control is quite a small, but intimate venue, with a low stage and the band are in close contact with the audience. This suits The House of Love fine, as they’re very relaxed from the start and there’s quite a bit of banter, including about the big football match taking place in the city tonight (don’t ask me which, I haven’t a clue, but it’s caused real traffic congestion). Then someone ironically shouts, let’s have three cheers for Margaret Thatcher (this being the day of her death). There’s just a few sniggers, this being the north where the lady was not at all popular.

The House of Love @ Sound Control, Manchester, 8-4-13

While I get a copy of the setlist tonight, the band significantly divert from it. I get rather carried-away with the vibes and with photographing the band and make no notes, so apologies if there are any errors, but I’m here to capture the spirit of the gig rather than provide a forensic record.

The House of Love @ Sound Control, Manchester, 8-4-13

We kick off with two tracks from the new album, ‘Low Black Clouds’ and ‘A Baby Got Back On Its Feet’. New material is always tricky live, but fortunately both of these sound like classic House of Love. We then dip back into the first album for a number of tracks, starting with ‘Hope’. It’s a pleasure to listen to the structure and sound clarity of Bickers’ guitar playing, especially on a real classic like ‘Love in a Car’, a showpiece for his art. Chadwick’s distinctive voice has also held up well after all these years. We get a lot more old favourites too, including ‘The Beatles and the Stones’, ‘Shine on’, ‘I Don’t Know Why I Love You’ and the brilliant ‘Destroy the Heart’. Song writing doesn’t get much better than this. It looks like there are a lot of long term House of Love fans in the audience and I get the impression that they are really moved to see the band playing together again.

The House of Love @ Sound Control, Manchester, 8-4-13

No House of Love gig would be complete without them playing ‘Christine’, the early single that established the blueprint for the band’s sound. It’s just a question of when it comes. To start the encore we get ‘Lost in the Blues’, a strangely quiet acoustic number from the new album, but an interesting development of the band’s sound. Chadwick playfully encourages the audience to be patient and says they will play that song – ‘Claudine’, isn’t it? So finally we do get ‘Christine’ and it’s well worth waiting for. After two encores the band finally leave the stage and the audience melts away. Tonight proves that good music of any era lasts. 1980s music was a very mixed bag, but The House of Love produced some of the very best of it.

The Spotlight Kid @ Sound Control, Manchester, 8-4-13

Support band Spotlight Kid are a shoegaze band from Nottingham, who make an enjoyable guitar-based racket in the vein of My Bloody Valentine. I’m not sure what’s happening with the band as their website suggests they have a female singer, but tonight it’s just chaps. They pull out the stops for a full-on performance, with no effort spared.

HoL setlist: Low Black Clouds; A Baby Got Back On Its Feet; Hope; Sulphur; Road; She Paints Words Red; Crush Me; Never Again; Se Dest; The Beatles and the Stones; PKR; I Don’t Know Why I Love You; Holy River; Touch Me; Love in a Car; Phone; Shine On; Destroy the Heart; Lost in the Blues; Christine.

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