LIVE REVIEW: 13/07/13 – Them Balloons w/ Proper English Gentlemen + Hunting Helen @ Stealth, Nottingham

For anyone familiar with the venue, Stealth is one of the best in Nottingham. It’s incredibly versatile – acoustic shows have a strong sense of atmosphere and community whilst hardcore shows like First Blood and Dead End Path can turn the floor into a flurry of spinkicks and stage dives at the drop of a hat.

Despite a late start, Sam Jones (****) plays a set slightly shorter than usual which consists of only a handful of songs. Even so, the young Nottinghamien brings so much energy to the stage to say it’s just him and a guitar. His fairly unique country/blues influenced acoustic tunes (think a cross between The Black Keys and Johnny Cash) have been earning him fans left, right and centre in the city and quite rightly so – Sam seems to be on top form tonight as he gives a note-perfect set.

The Silhouettes (***) follow Sam Jones and their half hour set proves that they’re definitely one to watch. “41” proves to be a definite highlight of their set, with a strong bassline throughout – much like a Suck It And See-era Arctic Monkeys. “Sierra Leone” is another highlight, as this time the band exchange groovy riffs in favour of a slower song with melancholic overtones. With plenty of banter in between songs, the only thing the band needs more of is variation and catchy hooks.

Hunting Helen (*****) have been on Nottingham’s circuit for less than a couple of years but have already gained quite a dedicated following, and drawing the biggest crowd of the night is testament to that fact. The band offer a mix of older material from their first EP “Dusk” as well as new singles recorded for LMC Records. Tonight they’re the middle ground between Sam Jones and The Silhouettes – an acoustic guitar backed by bass and drums. They open with fan favourite Gave Me Your Hand, an upbeat acoustic rock song with an incredibly memorable hook. Save Me follows and though it’s a much softer song with a greater sense of dynamics and harmonics between vocalist Ande Hunter and bass player Richard Fairholme, it’s still one of Hunting Helen’s best songs. The set is very fun overall and one thing is clear – Proper English Gentlemen will have quite the job following.

Though the crowd shrinks down to just a mere ten after Hunting Helen, Proper English Gentlemen (****) come across as a Your Favourite Worst Nightmare-era Arctic Monkeys, not that there’s anything wrong with that! The band prove themselves a competent unit with plenty of groovy riffs and basslines. The band are one of the more energetic tonight, with plenty of movement to keep their set interesting.

Them Balloons (****) take to the stage wrapped in black tuxedos and offer their loyal fans (the crowd swells up again) a half hours’ worth of upbeat pop rock in the vein of The Wombats. Their set flows well and the band seems to enjoy it.

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