RockSound Christmas Party featuring earthtone9, Liberty 37, Sikth & Forever Until October. Sheffield Coporation @NMB Sheffield Hallam. December 11 2001

It's kind of a risky business, taking a Christmas Party gig for a major magazine out of the capital. A brave move. A bold move. And it's Cold. Bloody Cold. And I mean inside the venue, where it appears for some reason one of the side doors is open. Early. Cold. Brave move.

Forever Until October open proceedings at the holy rock'n'roll hour of 6.15. There's not too many people around, huddled at the back to keep warm. It's a fairly high stage, it's far too empty. It doesn't deter the band from playing about 30 minutes of their emo styled music. Current (only(?)) offering Perect stands out, but that's kind of because there's just not enough of their music available at the moment. The EP is three songs over in 11 minutes. It's not enough. By the time you've settled in to listen to it, it's over. They'll be so much more potent when an album is out, and you can become familiar with them. The vocals are astonishing, tonight happens to feature 2 of the best "singers" in the UK at the moment, along with Ish from Liberty. Naturally gifted, no need to scream or strain. The closing song also has a fantastic guitar part in there. They just need to get the material out for people to familiarise themselves with, and then hopefully there shouldn't be too much more of opening at ungodly hours to far too few people.

Sikth are next up. A 6 piece that I've never actually heard anything by before, they appear to stick out like something of a sore thumb tonight. Much heaver and dischordant than any of the other bands on the bill, there's an element of that kind of studios math rock thing about them, with spazzes out into all kind of direction. The use of twin vocalist frontmen doesn't really do it for me, but I don't think any twin vocalist fronted band has really done it for me yet. They mention doing a Rock Show live session in the coming week on a number of occassions, but it doesn't really appear to be registering with anyone, and there's not a great deal of enthusiasm around. Maybe it was just the wrong bill for them.

It's been a looooong time since I've seen Liberty 37. I remember the build up of expectation, from the No Beauty single on Org, through the release of the Greatest Gift album, a number of support slots. And then wooooosh. Nothing, it was like they just disappeared. I'd kind of grown to think they'd become yet another victim of the apathy and industry. But now, they're back. Somewhat low key on the Mighty Atom label, with a stunning new album, The God Machine. An abum that on first listen doesn't blow you away, but it leaves those little hooks dangling, "play me again, just once, you know you want to, GO ON", and then starts reeling you in the more times you return to it. And it says something that they're here tonight, as RockSound appear to be the only national magazine at the moment that have picked up on the band, giving them some well deserved coverage. But, if they continue to put on performances like this, then surely many other people will take notice. They have to. Don't they? Of course they do. Tonight they were stunning. Best band of the evening by quite a distance I thought.

The key, and it is the major key to this band, is known as Ish. He has a voice that is designed to fill stadiums. He opens his mouth, and even singing through gritted teeth on the likes of album open Jihad (the build up to and the chorus are awesome), this perfect effortless sound emerges. As he writhes around the stage, Twink to his left on bass, Tim to his right on guitars, and stand-in(?) drummer Rhodri behind him provide the musical backdrop, which shouldn't be underestimated. In many respects, much like earthtone9, it's not about the visual impact, or any kind of obviousness in their performance. It's about songs, and it's about class, quality that oozes from the stage. The set concentrates on the new album, the shimmering 1942, hit single in the making (no really, it could be, if we're talking about hit single potential as a song, then it has it all, if we're talking about harsh reality, it's probably not got a chance) All of Myself, Broadside, Head of David are all belted out. Aside from Ish, most of my attention is drawn by the basswork of Twink. He seems to play simple enough looking stuff, but live the sound comes through so much more, and watching him play, he's got so much time, and underpins the newer material. Tim has a kind of rock star swagger, even when he's not playing any notes, the way he holds his Gibson guitar.

There's a few people have travelled up from Swansea to support them, including some guys from a band on the same label, they did say the name, but I'm afraid I've forgotten. They taunt Ish with various chants "are you from Swansea or are you taking the pi ... oh you are from Swansea" he corrects himself before finishing the sentance. The first album is represented through the likes of Revolution, the Zeppelinesque swagger of Falling Out and set closer Oh River. There were more songs, I forget now. Earlier in the set Ish had laughed "I think they like us". By the end of the set, we should've loved them. Hundred Reasons are receiving acclaim and the spotlight. Liberty 37 should be standing, shoulder to shoulder with them.

When earthtone9 hit the stage at the rock'n'roll hour of, er, about 8.45, the place fills quite considerably while down the front appears almost the exclusive domain of white shirt wearers, adorned with various logos, lyrics and phrases.The band wander on, Oz wearing a, er, fetching(!?!) stetson and proceed to open with evil crawling i. Maybe I'm still recovering from the stunning Liberty37 set, maybe it's the chill that's still dominating the room, but things, don't quite kick in for me. Maybe it's the bass problems that seem to be afflicting Dave. "Can you fix it?" yells Karl as the hapless bassman crouches down trying to, er, fix the problem. "No" he yells back. Ahhhh. p.r.d chaos comes and goes, unfortunately Ish doesn't make an appearance, which personally I thought would've been nice to see. It all sounds loose and a bit lack-lustre and the playing is just not very tight or as together as it was on the last tour (says a non-musician), but given that this gig is the middle one of three that span about a week and a half, I guess there's not really the time for them to get the tightness normally associated and that emerges from a consecutive string of gigs. There's some what looks like ill-advised stage diving going on and as Amnesia starts up, it sounds very light. Like it's missing something. That'll be the bass playing up again then. So a quick decision is made to nip to the toilets, and upon returning, the lack of bass problem appears not to have been resolved. Instead it's been taken a bit further as there's a lack of bass player now. I figure Dave has left the stage to try and sort things out. As the song ends, Owen leaves the stage, indicating to Karl he's going to see whats happening. "Excuse the intra-band counselling. I never realised how much difference having bass actually makes."

There then follows a 10 or 15 minute break, during which time various time passing mutterings are uttered, before one by one everyone leaves the stage. Eventually they return, Oz minus hat, and Dave with a red bass that I don't think I've ever seen unleashed upon a stage before. Karl announces that due to the break, they'll have to drop a couple of songs. The continue onwards with Revelation, but there's still ongoing bass problems. The crowd try to raise them with a chant of "Dave, Dave, Dave, Dave", and the man laughs as he knocks back another bottle of beer. Unfortunately the flow of the set has been interrupted. Binary makes an attempt to recover things for the grand finale, but there's still problems, meaning that Dave doesn't hang around for the final jam as normal. They run late. And it's still all over by 9.50. Overall the technical problems mean it's a strange and fractured set which just didn't gell this time round, and was one of the worst performances I think I've seen from them. But hey, I guess these things happen.

But for me, Liberty 37 stole the night away totally. Stunning.