LIVE: Desperate Journalist @ Soup Kitchen, Manchester

By Tom Walsh

T-shirts emblazoned with ‘Grow Up’ adorn the walls of the basement of Manchester’s Soup Kitchen. The title of Desperate Journalist’s latest release has become a mantra of a band constantly looking forward, not wanting to cling to a youth that cannot be reclaimed.

In this downstairs bunker – which looks like the cross between a sweat-stained arena of a Palahniuk book and the dystopian watering hole of a Kubrick film – the raw, encapsulating enthral of youth punctuates this ultimately mature and consummate performance. Even reaching tonight’s venue has been a challenge with motorway tailbacks, unswappable work shifts and delayed trains providing stumbling blocks for the band’s members. These potential derailments don’t deter Desperate Journalist, who bring an exhilarating intensity to the evening’s proceedings. Wrapped in microphone cables and stopping briefly to swig a can of Kronenbourg 1664, singer Jo Bevan produces a hypnotic performance with her distinct tones echoing around the room.

While often compared to The Cranberries’ Dolores O’Riordan and Joy Division’s Ian Curtis, her sound is uniquely brilliant. It sways between the wild abandon demonstrated on ‘Control’, the beautiful vulnerability of ‘Be Kind’ to the sneering scorn of ‘Why Are You So Boring?’ One of the more impressive aspects of Desperate Journalist’s live shows is how effortlessly they are able to replicate the grandiose nature of their newer material in this modest setting. Guitarist Rob Hardy, armed with a 12-string Rickenbacker, spins a web of delicate riffs that create an emotional ambience exhibited perfectly in the lip-trembling, heart-tugging ‘Lacking In Your Love’. Hardy’s enchanting guitar work is complemented perfectly by the vibrating bass-line of Simon Drowner, and the understated drum work of Caroline Helbert, setting the scene for Bevan’s haunting vocals to soar.

This is all against a backdrop of Hardy constantly fighting technical difficulties, the guitarist becoming increasingly frustrated as his amp continues to cut out at vital points. A visibly exasperated Hardy is calmed by Bevan before they treat the audience to an encore of ‘Organ’, then bid adieu.

From the Great British rush hour, to inconvenient work hours, to faulty input jacks attempting to spoil the party, Desperate Journalist provided yet another reason why they will be ones to look for in the years to come with a recital that resonated against the odds. It is a performance that manages to mix the wistfulness of youth and the maturity of adulthood that we are all supposed to be aspiring for. Should we all grow up?