Down the stairs and tucked away into the corner of one of Manchester’s best small venues – the Soup Kitchen – there is a bubbling sense of anticipation and an air of consensus that the sizeable crowd are going to witness something special. This is because the couple of hundred patrons that have crammed themselves into this fantastic space have gathered to see FINDLAY.
Fronted by the ever-so-glamorous Natalie Findlay, this four-piece, armed with a cult online following, has found itself rapidly growing in stature and popularity of late. Fresh from an appearance in London and armed with a fiery mix of sleaze-tinged noir rock and irresistible pop melodies, this band has seen its fan base expand and the size of its venues grow only in the space of a few months.
Strutting onto the somewhat flexible wooden stage, a huge cheer rises from the crowd as Findlay takes position. What follows is something of a surprising start to the gig, and one that showcases the power the band – and particularly Natalie herself – can exert over an audience. The opening song “Sweetheart” is a solo performance from the singer of magnificent dynamism that holds the crowd in thrall from start to finish. The range and power held within her vocals are a huge point of differentiation between Findlay and other bands of this ilk. Her innate talent at moving from light to shade and shifting volume at just the right moment really does have a marked effect live.
The sweet frailty of the first track gives way to the distorted, chopping guitars and pounding drums that the band is known for, and a hugely receptive crowd snaps out of its reverie as the electrifying atmosphere is set. There’s no bass guitar in this arrangement. Instead, a pitch-shifted and absolutely dirty guitar replaces the need for one. This, while initially seeming like a glaring omission, actually works brilliantly in the context of the music, and provides the perfect undertones to the raw melodies.
At the half-way point, the band breaks out its stunning track “Your Sister.” A duly ecstatic reception follows, and the highlight of the evening is formed.
What sets this band apart from others is simply that it is deceptive. “Your Sister,” for instance, presents just one facet of this intriguing act. Beneath the dirt and sleaze of the guitars, there’s a keen knowledge of melody and a talent for creating catchy, rousing hooks. Mixed with the smart, casually wry and ultra-aware lyrics, the elements found here combine beautifully.
Another high point, the energetic “Fever” helps bring the gig towards the close. With a crowd more than willing to let themselves go and let the music take over, the night is infused with a fantastically playful aura. As the last notes ring out and the band takes its leave, the consensus is clear – tonight was very special indeed.