LIVE REVIEW: The Xcerts, Airways, The Joiners, Southampton, 04/03/2018
2018 has already been shaping up as a very exciting year for Scottish trio The Xcerts: touring Europe with Nothing But Thieves, getting their first top 40 album with Hold On To Your Heart and completing their own run of headline shows. As Hold On To Your Heart is one of our most-played releases of the year so far we went to the final date of the tour to celebrate alongside them.
Support for this tour came from Peterborough based band Airways and their indie-pop sound is just what we need to brighten up our cold Sunday. The quartet sing of situations we’ve all been in or can sympathise with. For instance, fan favourite track Alien tells the story of being declined entry into a country when all they wanted to do was play. Whilst Mate, taken from their EP Starting To Spin, reminds us of those times you just need a mate to get you out of a very sticky situation – we’ve all been there. When performed live there’s a tight sense of musicianship and friendship displayed, making it a more enjoyable set to watch. Southampton gig goers may show reluctance to lighten up and get involved during Airways set, but that doesn’t stop Jake Daniels from getting to know the crowd and making new friends. Their catchy lyrics, infectious guitar lines and perfected live performance makes it hard to not want to see Airways live again. Trust us, after watching them you’ll probably end up singing along to their songs without realising: Listen To Your Friends is yet to leave our heads.
Playing to a crammed, sold-out Joiners, The Xcerts and everyone in the room know that this is going to be a special way to round off the tour. Kicking off their triumphant set with The Dark, the slow piano-led start gives chance for Murray Macleod’s vocals to shine through, whilst Jordan Smith takes on the keys in this emotion-fuelled track. This track is followed by the contrasting feel-good Daydream (which coincidentally follows in the tracklisting on Hold On To Your Heart) and when performed live there’s an instant mood change.
The tour’s setlist features the entirety of Hold On To Your Heart, but also some older fan favourites which gives everybody something to enjoy. I Don’t Care and Shaking In The Water are two of these older editions, the crowd’s excitement picking up and encouraging a huge sing along. Despite being the last date of the tour it really doesn’t feel like it, largely down to the excitement and freshness of the trio onstage giving every bit of their heart, soul and energy.
The Xcerts have adopted a poppier sound on their latest album, and First Kiss Feeling and Crazy are perfect examples of this. The upbeat, exciting sound allows further fan interaction and the chance to have a little Sunday evening dance. Who doesn’t love a dance with their mates? Slowing things down the band perform Show Me Beautiful and Cry which deliver hard-hitting, thought-provoking lyrics. The Xcerts possess the power of switching from exciting, pop-vibe tracks to heartfelt, emotional numbers within an instant. Crisis In The Slow Lane provides opportunity for Macleod to shine, his vocals hauntingly beautiful when mixed in with the crowd singing. The power duo of fan favourites Drive Me Wild and We Are Gonna Live quickly become a highlight for many. Explaining how earlier on in the tour they had brought fans up for the Drive Me Wild saxophone parts, Macleod explains how after two dates the fans attempted to steal the limelight. Which obviously the trio weren’t keen on… limelight hoggers? The Xcerts? Definitely not. Prior to We Are Gonna Live fans are reminded of the importance of loving your life and those around you in a heartwarming speech, before the catchy sing-along track takes hold. It’s really hard not to feel good when seeing The Xcerts, whether it’s because you’re surrounded by like-minded fans or because the lyrical talent they possess resonates with everyone in some way.
Heading towards the end of the set it’s time for Hold On To Your Heart to make an appearance, the title-track from their latest album. It’s pure fire both recorded and live, showcasing everything great about The Xcerts from the bold choruses, driving drum lines, emotive vocals and slick guitar lines. As Tom Heron and Smith leave the stage marking the end of the set, Macleod admits that this is the point where they’re all meant to leave and come back for the encore; but he doesn’t want to. So doesn’t. Throwing himself into the solo Aberdeen 1987 it’s a throwback for fans in the room who’ve watched the transition of The Xcerts over the years. We feel like we’re at a gathering with friends singing along to one of our favourite songs, with Macleod leading the pack. It’s from calm to chaos within an instant, as the va va voom really kicks up a storm with Slackerpop. New fans are taught the iconic line “I’ll be your man, I’ll be your mannequin” whilst old fans are leading the way chanting it back, much to the trio’s delight. Ending their victorious night with Feels Like Falling In Love this is the chance to go out with a bang, the track featuring the most iconic instrumental in The Xcerts’ history. Pulling together the individual talents of the trio we feel like their sound could fill an arena let alone a small venue, which is something that we can see The Xcerts doing in the not so distant future. After one last round of the chorus, which is sang by the adoring crowd, they leave to a sea of cheers and happy faces – coming out on a Sunday night for this show was a good way to prepare for the week ahead.
What became clear throughout the night is that The Xcerts simply love being onstage, and just like a fine wine they’ve improved with age. It’s hard not to smile whilst watching bassist Jordan Smith living out his rock star dreams onstage, with a huge smile never leaving his face. Or when Murray Macleod sees the crowd singing back lyrics louder than him, or Tom Heron gets a brief moment to look up to the crowd beaming with joy. The trio doesn’t falter once tonight and proves that the success 2018 is already bringing them is deserved – something that is likely to continue in years to come.
Written By: Nicola Craig