O Children - Kraak, Manchester - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

O Children - Kraak, Manchester

by Steve Rhodes Rating: Release Date:

It's a jam-packed night in the tiny Kraak art installation-cum-venue, with three supports before headliners O Children emerge. First up are the rather pompously-named Die Hexen, an electronic two-piece who have clear fixations on Shakespear's Sister, Siouxsie, and especially Zola Jesus, heavily borrowing the latter's synth-heavy ethereal soundscapes, but without troubling or exciting the crowd.

The singer, blindfolded throughout, wearing a batman-style cape and having the annoying habit of yelping without warning in several of the songs, just adds to the overwhelming portentousness of the performance. This is a band that would be rejected from the Bronze in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. A disappointing start to the evening.

Fellow two-piece The Voyeurist are an improvement, with interesting guitar loops, occasional bass and a drum-machine backing. However, their set is haphazard and a bit of a mess, often let down by drab vocals, like a Pussycat Doll has stumbled in on The Faint. The mix just doesn't work here. There is little cohesion between the two band members, who seem to be playing different songs at times, and too much of an over-reliance on pre-programmed sounds. Where there is a basis of good songs, these are occasionally ruined by overblown guitar which drags the music back to mediocrity.

Losing your vocalist just before you start does not bode well for the next band, Ulterior. However, after a successful search, the band plough through a synth-heavy, Industrial-lite set, influenced by Sisters of Mercy, Soft Cell, Young Gods and The Horrors. Like many bands, it's all effects over substance, with the band struggling with the sound and feedback, delivered to an increasingly thinning audience.

One major plus, though, is the formerly-missing singer Paul McGregor, whose intensity, focus and strong vocal adds depth to a so-so performance. The closing highlight, 'Sex Wars Cars Sex', is a far superior song to the rest and is belted-out beautifully with aggression. It shows promise and what the band are capable of. If only they could have managed it for the rest of the set.

It's well into the witching hour before O Children emerge, but it was worth the wait. They are a revelation. Suffering none of the sound issues that dogged their support, they dive straight into the oriental-tinged 'Malo' and produce a wonderful, energetic performance which truly excites the crowd. With melodies that touch on Echo & the Bunnymen, Nick Cave, Redjetson and The Invisible, they provide a tight, melodious sound, with a great guitar sprawl and spiky bass on both 'Pt Cruiser' and the Jon Spencer-meets-Foxy Lady 'Swim'.

The band are dominated, quite literally, by the towering singer and rhythm guitarist Tobi O'Kandi, who provides soulful, baritone vocals, excellent stage presence and charisma, while effortlessly charming the pants off the audience. While live favourites 'Dead Disco Dancer' and 'Ruins' sound immense and go down particularly well, it is 'Chimera' that is the standout tonight. A building and pulsing number with chiming guitars and an uplifting synth backing, it is their 'pop' song, delivered to perfection.

A band which seem destined to forever live under the radar, O Children are great on record but an absolute delight live. If they continue with performances like this, they should have no problems in increasing their fan-base, which is the least they deserve.

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