For a band whose star is in the ascendancy, The Brook in Southampton gives independently signed acts like The Rebs something of a natural pedestal on which to stand and survey their audience. The place is full to the rafters, literally, as the first floor balcony is jam-packed: eager locals ready to consume the Southampton band's invigorating indie/electro-pop songs. But the stage, you see, is raised a good five feet from the floor, forcing the crowd to gaze up at its occupants - whether they like it or not.
This is, you suspect, how The Rebs prefer it. They're no strangers to limelight, having come good in 2008's Road To V competition and opening the festival for Kaiser Chiefs, The Zutons and The Courteeners, and winning two Exposure Music Awards for Best Pop Song and Best Overall Song in the last 18 months. On first glance though, they're a curious bunch: guitar-wielding frontman Russell Edmonds is almost transatlantic in his good looks, as though forged at the height of Strokes and New York garage rock fever. The beaming bassist, Nader Rezaie, seems much more laid back with his elongated basslines and falling black locks, while Vicki Averre-Beeson hops about behind her Korgs, lost in the atmosphere and stabbing out synth melodies. Sticksman Sim Cracknell provides big bouncing rhythms, also wearing a large grin throughout the night.
The night's main event is to see The Rebs entertain, and they come out in buoyant mood, visibly excited to impress the crowd on this, their début album launch. Taking the unusual step of playing through the tracklisting in order, the crowd are treated to the full Rebs repertoire; the best of their blossoming catalogue causing some of the avid audience to break in to chants of 'Reb Army!'. The army deal, primarily, in thumping pop rock, the attitude of Edmonds's driving guitars balanced out by a series of knock-out choruses. Début single 'Don't Fool Yourself' is exemplary, a punchy mid-tempo affair that throws in the night's main foot-stamping, sing-a-long moment.
The Rebs appear to have taken their cues from that golden early to mid-00s period, their widescreen indie reminding of Hot Fuss-era Killers - see 'Superman' - and early Franz Ferdinand. Despite any misgivings that sentence may have just stirred in you, live, it still works, thanks to the full throttle treatment it gets from the confident foursome. Standout moment is the fast-paced 'Would I Remember', forceful but irresistibly catchy - perfect summer festival stuff - while sort of title track 'Always in a Heartbeat' spears numerous synth lines across a crashing rock backdrop to memorable effect. Even if it does draw comparisons with The Automatic.
What quickly becomes obvious is just how saturated the tracklist is with strong single potential. With a commendable motto on their MySpace - "Influences: artists with great songwriters - we like singles" - each song tries to pack in that classic sounding chorus, and most are successful. It's no mean feat building 11 songs to a fervent indie template, yet managing to produce almost as many pop choruses from the top shelf among them, and credit is due to The Rebs for this. A breather tonight, however, comes in the form of three acoustic tracks in succession, the band leaving Edmonds alone under the lights to amuse himself for 10 minutes. Not all of the acoustic numbers feature in the tracklisting, thankfully, but it's a disappointingly typical (or perhaps naive) début album tactic, including an obligatory 'quiet one', the supposedly introspective, deep track, and it doesn't quite sit with a band who for the main have canon of excellent songs that don't necessarily conform to the typical début album.
Nevertheless, tonight it's all about The Rebs collectively - an affirmation of their award-winning songwriting, the headrushing performance of their songs in the live arena; the strut of a band who've got something and believe they're ready to take it to the world. And if people start catching on, The Rebs just might come out on top.
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