Gig Review: The Thieves @ NE Volume Music Bar

Covid-19 cannot stop The Thieves from selling out a gig, they’re unstoppable. 

Gigs, gigs, and gigs, oh how I’ve missed you so much! The NE Volume Music Bar, an independent venue tucked away in the center of Stockton, played host to a spectacular night of talent ripe from the North East. Bishop Auckland lads The Thieves headlined the bill whilst it was new waters for The Baltics who have been rocking the waves over the last six months.

The night opened up with solo-guitarist Stephen McCormick, warming the crowd up with heart-warming melodies. Now, this wasn’t something you’d expect to see at a gig that was billed with bands in their late teens/early 20s, but it was the right way to start a crowd that would have normally have been stood up on their toes but were instead sat down as the venue allured them into the somber atmosphere of a socially distanced gig. The first act did bring an interesting style, upbeat acoustic melodies, raw rhythm, and melancholic lyrics; a style that mimicked that of ‘Word Gets Around’ (Stereophonics, 1997). For three minutes, Steve McCormick was a discovery for many in the room – as it is always the standard that the first support tends to be someone unknown to the ear of gig-goers – but as the more songs he played, the more strings he picked and the more his stage partner beat his box, Steve had gone from being that dad your mate had who appeared on the ‘Old Grey Whistle Test’ once to a singer who had unleashed this acoustic force onto the relaxed crowd – he had brought a whole new meaning to the word intimacy. His guitar playing had made him sound more youthful to the crowd – the organisers knew how to get a crowd who attended in the midst of a chaotic autumn going, and their answer was clear cut: Steve McCormick was a great choice for this.

As the night progressed, and once Steve McCormick had got the atmosphere brewing, it was time for Geordie favourites The Baltics to have their turn to prepare the crowd for the anticipated headliner. They hit their performance off with debut single ‘Carbon Theme Park’, and as it was the lads’ first time outside of their beloved Tyneside, they were anxious on delivering to a crowd that were yet to be met with their intricate sound. Shay, the lead singer, broke the ice before the lads descended into their next song; battering too and forth with the crowd in a witty way akin to how John Lennon would banter with audiences. They brought their ‘Carbon Theme Park’ to Teesside, and it definitely left a footprint on the crowd who had been impressed with a solo packed with confidence from the lads who have never ventured outside of Newcastle before.

As The Baltics don’t have much material out at the moment, they preserved their most recent track, ‘Bad Reality TV’, at the end of the performance whilst covers from their favourite artists appetised the sold-out venue. The first of these was Radiohead’s Just, perhaps the band’s strongest influence. They had mastered it, the crowd who were slowly recognising the track were slowly bopping their head and tapping their feet to it in approval. And dare I say that Thom Yorke would have approved of the way they structured the bass – it was wall shattering, literally. Emphasising their grunge influences, they gave a bit of Nirvana a go, outlining where their distorted sound comes from.

Then, amongst the covers, arose an unknown track – whether it be The Baltics’ own track or a cover – that had this flare of solemnity that was emphasised by the vocals and the energetic guitar playing, it definitely cemented their style into the heads of the crowd. To characterise even further on their influence of heavy sounding grunge, the lads played Blur’s ‘Song 2’ which suited their eccentric playing style, pumped up the energy with a ground-shaking beat. Stirring things up a bit with Oasis’ ‘Live Forever’ – showing that their music is a broad church of style – there was no doubt that this would go down well with the audience. The crowd erupting into song clearly had fuelled the four lads from Tyneside with confidence, making them feel right at home. I wonder if Liam Gallagher himself has given the lads a listen as I’m sure he’d be enthralled with guitarist Josh’s finessing of the solo. Then they called the curtains with one of the new best tunes from 2020, ‘Bad Reality TV’ having its first live outing as a released track. The distortion is a real treat live, as it just lights the room up with an electrifying buzz of adrenaline. Each and every member played their part in making the floor move; Shay, Josh, Guy, and Adam have every right to be proud of how far and quick they are developing as well as the fact that Newcastle should be proud of them as their exporting this ripe sound and showing the world up. The endeavor of The Baltics had their first docking in the Tees, but I think more visits are expected as Teesiders have grown an admiration of the Geordie quartet, an admiration that is yet to be shared in many parts of the country once they have their dose of seeing The Baltics live. It won’t be long till they are topping their bills.

The Thieves, a Bishop Auckland trio, came riding into Stockton on their musical steam train. Taking to the stage, and gifting the sold-out crowd who had packed the room to its rifters with hard-hitting garage rock that provides some blood pumping beats, their electrifying riffs are served to you like an espresso. It truly is a shame that Boris does not like the youth of today wanting to huddle and jump on the dancefloor (if they had got a grouse on stage then maybe it would have been okay) as given The Thieves were playing to a normal crowd at a normal time then they would have had a crowd really going for it, making a small room of thirty people feel like those nights at the O2 where circle pits wouldn’t have been such a rare sight. You just can’t stop tapping your toes to an adrenaline-fuelled drum fill – backed up by an array of awesome chaos of drummer Leon. The sound matched the style that the lads were donning; smart, sharp, with a bit of edge – they had thieved the limelight, even the toilet and the bar became insignificant -they owned the show.

It’s apparent that garage rock is having a revival, and The Thieves are clearly one of the bands spearheading it – the way the had the crowd in the palm of their hand, I’d not be surprised if they become favourites to support much bigger acts on those anticipated post-pandemic tours. These are another band that can perfectly distort, they had provided the crowd with a kick of energy to kickstart their weekend through their shockwaves that electrified the room. They are exactly what it says on the tin: a rush of adrenaline that pumps up your blood vessels. Given a regular time, Frankie’s solos would have had a more rocking crowd dancing in the puddles of their own sweat. These are a band that don’t mess about!

‘Bide Your Time’ is normally associated with the seminal Teeners’ classic, but after Friday night, The Thieves had thieved that title and passed it off with a more ecstatic buzz, this will be one that should be flooding your playlist – it is a mesmerising banger live that tears through the floor as in how intricately juxtaposed the song’s speed is.

The Bishop boys are ready for the big leagues after an impressive headliner, having the energy to take them by storm – do not underestimate these lads at any rate. They treat the crowd to a buffet of songs; a solemn but raw track – a ripe sound handpicked from the land of The Prince Bishops. Frankie strummed along to his guitar, which was emblazoned with the infamous iconic logo of notorious punk band The Sex Pistols. It was like the lads were in their own fantasy of the Pistol’s Lesser Free Trade Hall gig. The way they dominated the crowd, having them clapping along to their beat, it really does beg the question of the lads being unheard outside the walls of County Durham. They didn’t hesitate to jump into a puddle of rhythm, bending pitches like there is no tomorrow. They fused a solo akin to that of The Stone Roses with their material, committing a great theft but finessing it with their energetic style.

They then shot their ammunition with earth-shattering single ‘Bulletproof’ at the relaxed atmosphere – the room was far from bulletproof. Frankie sported his leather jack in an act of symbolism – raw, ripe and rocky – as he conducted the crowd into a sequence of headbanging with their soul-stealing rhythm. The gig-goers who had sold out the performance at a time when support for the industry was needed more than ever proved that a Teesside never disappoints even at the time of uncertainty.

The trio are destined to be a fan-favourite when it comes to gigs as this performance showed this. They had lived up to the status of a headliner, delivering more than their name on the bill promised. Nothing could stand in the way of Leon, Liam, and Frankie – not even a global pandemic.

Jack McKenna



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