Updated: Friday, 10th July 2020 @ 2:49pm

Review & interview: Clean Cut Kid and Shura @ Manchester city centre's Gorilla

Review & interview: Clean Cut Kid and Shura @ Manchester city centre's Gorilla

| By Rosemary Collins

“It’s good to be home,” Shura yells to a clamouring, packed crowd.

The singer, who grew up in Manchester, tells us how she played her first gig at just 16, a stone’s throw away in the Thirsty Scholar.

Now she’s back as one of the hottest young musicians around.

The night began slightly further away from Manchester, with Liverpudlian opening act Clean Cut Kid.

Luckily there were no football rivalries between the two cities tonight, possibly because Clean Cut Kid won the audience over with an energy and sweetness as unmissable as their hair.

Frontman Mike Halls and drummer Ross Higginson both sport impressive beards, while bassist Saul Godman has flowing ginger locks.

That same charm was on display when I met Clean Cut Kid for an interview earlier and vegan Saul insisted on offering me a rice cake (which he has also been known to throw at people).

Mike Halls and his wife Evelyn, who completes the band as keyboard player, wanted to form a band with Saul but it never materialised.

Then they found him again six years later, busking.

“We thought he’d be well dead by now,” Mike said.

Then he met Ross 'geeking out about shit music on the Tube' and the band had, in a slightly laid-back way, come together.

The previous night, they opened for Years & Years, where they were incredibly excited to find that the original R2DT and C3PO were on display at the venue.

Their plans for the future include Saul’s plan to record an album inspired by kitchen condiments.

However, they’ve been travelling so much that they miss home.

We’ve been away in prime time when everyone’s getting the Christmas trees out,” Evelyn said. “The flat’s going to be bare.”

They’re looking forward to more success in the new year.

“We want to pick up a good following and play to more and more people and have a number one album,” Mike joked.

The band are hoping to do something together over Christmas – last year they ate pizza and watched Home Alone.

Saul was horrified when I admit I’d never seen it.

“You’ve never seen Home Alone?” “No.” “You’ve never seen Home Alone 2?” “No.” “You’ve never seen Home Alone 3?” “No, sorry”.

And on that note, I had to leave. But it was a treat to watch Clean Cut Kid on stage later.

They began with the barnstorming Run Away.

The song’s energy had them jumping up and down, contrasting with the bleak lyrics: 'Everything you thought would be yours by now / Slipped through your fingers and you’ll never know how'.

It ended with a blast of noise and Mike Halls speaking to the audience like a primary school teacher: “Everyone squidge in a bit, just so I can see people’s faces.”

We Used to Be in Love and Make Believe added to the heartbroken theme, but Stay was, unexpectedly, a song about ADHD.

Brother of Mine was slower-paced but just as raucous, while they ended optimistically with their hit song Vitamin C, a celebration of love’s capacity to heal.

But Shura was undoubtedly the star of the evening.

Her dreamy electropop is a completely different style to Clean Cut Kid’s more home-grown, psychedelic approach, but it had the same wave of energy.

Dressed in a sports top and performing in Gorilla’s enclosed, intimate space, she needed no gimmicks or stagecraft to captivate the audience besides her raw emotion.

The opening song was an overwhelming cri de cœur – "Somebody get me out of this place” – that had Shura’s face contorted and her hair falling across her face.

She claimed that the cheers in the audience were from old school friends who’d come to see her perform.

But the whole packed room seemed captivated by her ability to deeply feel the wide variety of emotions on display in her songs.

In one song, she spat: “Thought we’d get married and have kids and stuff” at a lover with real viciousness.

And in another song, philosophically mused: “I’m not a child but I don’t feel grown up”.

In 2Shy, her pure voice was full of melancholy yearning, and White Light was an energetic burst of noise.

In keeping with the song’s Under the Skin inspired video, it sounded like signals from an alien spaceship.

It may have been a triumphant home coming for Shura, but judging by her ability to captivate the crowd, Manchester shouldn’t expect to see her too often.

There’ll probably be a lot more tours in her future.

Image courtesy of BBC Radio 1 via YouTube, with thanks.