Review: Friends @ Deaf Institute – February 6

By David Wright

MM’s David Wright ventures in to The Deaf Institute to review Brooklyn-based quintet Friends.

It’s been an exciting week for Friends with the release of single Friend Crush, the announcement of a nine-date UK tour in May and this gig being one of a handful of sold out shows in Manchester and London – so we’ll pardon any smugness.

Instead, it’s harmless confidence from the fledging Brooklynites, who position around flamboyant singer Samantha Urbani.

“We’re so high up on this stage,” she says with her husky voice, “Feel free to join us up here to dance.”

There’s a sweet weirdness about Urbani; imagine a young, female version of Frank Black and you’ve pretty much hit the nail on the head. It shows in songs Perpetual Crush and Ruins, with arbitrary noises and impulsive tones that flit from high and low at times they really shouldn’t, but somehow she’s able to pull it off.

Before jumping into familiars, Urbani announces the differences between their first killer debut hits and their unreleased tracks. And she’s right – but they still all fall into their self-proclaimed genre, that is, ‘weird pop’.

With vocalist Urbani dressed in ripped denim and torn leather shorts – and the fact the five-piece offered free tattoos after the gig – it’s not a genre you’d tend to associate them with. Weird-punk-rock’n’roll-indie-pop, perhaps?

It’s during the infectious I’m His Girl – with enough cowbell action to impress Bruce Dickinson – and Friend Crush that a number of the crowd take Urbani up on her offer and join to dance on stage. It’s a brilliant scene, though ending abruptly after a cheeky chappy gropes the feisty Urbani, a more-than-awkward moment, but relief for the rest of the band who now have room to breathe.

It’s hard to take notice of the backing band with frontgirl Urbani cavorting around her platform, but bandmates Nikki Shapiro, Matthew Molnar and Lesley Hann frequently exchange instruments – apart from that they’re remain stationary. It’s very much the Samantha Urbani show.

The synth-ridden cover My Boo by Ghost Town DJ brings a change to the usually percussion-driven band, but the Brooklyn band of the moment adjusts to it effortlessly.

With their debut album due in April, May’s tour is one you just can’t afford to miss. Well, if this performance is anything to go on.

Tickets for the tour go on sale this Friday (10th February) at 9am

05 Live at Leeds, Leeds
06 Digital, Newcastle
07 King Tut’s, Glasgow
08 Academy 3, Manchester
09 Scala, London
10 The Great Escape, Brighton
11 The Great Escape, Brighton
12 Academy 2, Birmingham 
14 Fleece, Bristol

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