From the salt mining town of Winsford in Cheshire, The Luka State came to play in the underground confines of The Forum Basement, located in The Sussex Arms pub just off the famous Pantiles in Royal Tunbridge Wells. As part of their extensive five month tour, The Luka State played their second visit to the Garden Of England in nine months having wowed the crowds at Wheels And Fins Festival back in September.
The audience tonight was far smaller and the stage a fraction of the size, but the intensity of the succinct set and the impassioned delivery was no less impressive. The super-charged and, at times, incendiary performance by the foursome from Cheshire was well suited to the intimate venue in Kent where if you'd have pogoed with even mild enthusiasm you'd have hit your head on the blackened basement ceiling of the seventeenth century pub.
Ahead of The Luka State on Saturday night there were two support acts. The evening was headed up by local singer-songwriter Sophie Harmsworth, who performed a solo set of covers and original material. It's a tricky tightrope to walk when you choose to interpret well known and much loved songs but Sophie pulled them all off with aplomb. Amy Winehouse's 'You Know I'm No Good', Candi Staton's 'You Got The Love' and especially Joy Division's 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' all sounded great. Sophie played her guitar with deft assurance and sang with a knowing confidence. Harmsworth book-ended her set with her own songs 'The City' and 'Wasted Hours'; both of which highlighted her undoubted talent as a songwriter but it was two of her mid-set performances that resonated the most. 'Titanium Cranium' and latterly 'Not Always Right' were both stand-out performances from the solo artist.
Hunting Holly took to the stage shortly afterwards to deliver up their enthusiastic blend of punk-infused indie power-pop. With a particularly potent percussion driving the songs along, the quartet from Sevenoaks played out a lively set that included their latest single 'Impersonal Lives', as well as a rousing 'Push'. With Conrad and Lewis from The Luka State rocking up to watch most of Hunting Holly's set, the band announced that their new album would be due out "in a month, or maybe two, we'll announce it next week".
It wasn't long before "the Cheshire cats" followed Sophie Harmsworth and Hunting Holly onto the stage. With a quick change into their co-ordinated mustard shirts and black slacks, The Luka State looked like they meant business. "There's not many of us but I'm sure we'll have a good f**king time", said Conrad, and he was spot on. The band played a fantastic version of their latest single 'Girl', delivered a passionate and energised new track 'Room's On Fire', and performed a particularly fired up take of previous, Manics-sounding single 'What's My Problem'. Conrad, wearing his trusty tassel loafers and sporting his signature feather cut, was in great voice and clearly enjoying himself as he delighted in larking around with bassist Sam Bell.
The four men from Winsford name checked their hometown where "there's nothing to do but play football" ahead of 'Kick In The Teeth'. The pulsating side swipe at Winsford was a driven and impassioned highlight of the nine track set. Before the last song of the night, the band said there would be a free CD ('A Taste Of Things To Come') available on the merch stand for everyone to take after the gig. "Everyone likes a freebie", said Ellis. The all too brief performance was brought to a magnificent end by a riotous and blisteringly delivered 'Bury Me'. The machine gun drumming, shredded guitars and rumbling bass combined brilliantly in a whirlwind of frenzied noise before Conrad collapsed to the floor to end the show.
There were pleas from the audience for more but that was it; a tight, swift and stunning set from The Luka State delivered up at breakneck speed. There may not have been a large crowd and it may not have been a big venue, but it was still a terrific show and a performance that will linger long in the minds of those that were lucky enough to witness it.
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