Simon Jay Catling 30/04/2008
It takes a bold and often foolish band to try and upstage iLiKETRAiNS, yet Kyte are five young men from Leicester who seem hell bent on doing just this. Taking the piss somewhat by arriving to set up some fifteen minutes late, and then going on to play almost ten minutes overtime; the support act aren't so much as trying to pull the rug from under the headliners feet, more rolling up the rug, hi-tailing it to a local bazaar (although to be fair, urban Manchester features few of these) and selling it off for twice the price it's worth. Their audacious attempt to steal the show almost comes off as well; soft but searing synths wash over the audience like a gentle breeze whilst the lead vocalist half whispers his vocals so as to lose them in the now increasing gale of sound that is building up around him. Opener 'Planet' is sublime, and things get better as the fresh-faced musicians sweep and glide their way through four more songs of powerfully moving beauty. No wonder then that as Kyte proceed to immerse us and themselves in 'Stars On TV', one of iLiKETRAiNS frantically comes out of the changing room wielding a polite notice asking the band to stop stealing their audience and come down off the cloud that we're all currently sitting upon. Or words to that effect; the gauntlet has been set.
Turns out we needn't have worried. iLiKETRAiNS walk on sombrely; dressed, as ever, in matching white shirts and skinny black ties - when The Hives wear such items it comes across as frivolous and comic, but iLiKETRAiNS have never looked more serious about anything in their lives and as the opening, deep timbre thud of the bass drum announces 'Twenty Five Sins' one can almost feel the lick of flames around our feet and the screams of terror coming from distraught and terrified women and children, as the Great Fire of London begins to emit itself through iLT lead vocalist Dave Martin. The Leeds-group grab the listener's heart and wring it tight like a spunge, then sit back and watch the blood spill forth without ever having to reveal so much as a syllable about themselves; living through history's more tragic figures offers up a wall between them and their music, which on record can sometimes hinder, but live adds an additional cold, calculated and unnerving intensity to their performance. 'The Deception', the tale of sailor Donald Crowhurst who went mad out on the Atlantic, roars and rumbles stoically and resolutely, making the tiny Roadhouse venue feel like the MEN Arena down the road, so vast and expansive is its sound. By the time 'We All Fall Down', the fourth or fifth track tonight, rears its apocalyptic head, I realise that I've not stopped shaking since the set began; completely absorbed and drawn in as I am to the history lesson taking place on show in front of me. I have to extract myself for a breather as emotions soar and swell up inside me with no respite. Resistance is futile though and I return for more heart wrench and despair; feeling Nigel Tetley's anguish at being hoodwinked by the aforementioned Crowhurst, and the sense of failure that consequently stems from that, in the stirring 'Victress'; and feeling utterly helpless as the incessant witch hunt of Salem drives on with a bloody mindlessness in the monolithic 'We Go Hunting'. The best is saved till last, however, as TRAiNS take the 200 or so people in attendance tonight up to the Arctic, 1912, to pray witness to Captain Scott's terrifying realisation that he has led a crew of explorers to an impending death that neither he nor they can do anything about. I'm talking of course about the soaring, nerve shattering post rock of 'Terra Nova'. As if overseeing the torturous death of Captain Scott isn't enough, the band decide to really turn the thumbscrew with nine minute opus 'Spencer Perceval', Martin playing the role of the former British Prime Minister's assassin John Bellingham in a sneering, mocking tumult of words directed at his fallen victim. The dual guitars gradually build up a sense of foreboding and menace before Martin reaches the eye of the storm with the cold, heartless decree to Perceval that “your position can't save you now” and, just when the audience can't take it anymore, the song slowly releases in a whirl of noise and energy.
So… quite good then. Whilst it's hard to imagine iLiKETRAiNS will ever venture far from their chosen path, so deeply ingrained as it is, to see them live remains, and will continue to remain, a wholly exhilarating experience. Truly, few other bands can play with the crowd's emotions and senses with as much ease and potency as the Leeds five piece. Coming out of the venue I feel tired and exhausted and I'm not the only one; but by God, I loved every minute.