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Zut alors..

Heather Smith joins the 600 ticket winners on the list to see The Zutons at St George's Hall

Published on May 26th 2009.

Zut alors..

“YOU'RE on telly, so behave” was the instruction from Dave “main-man-of-few-words” McCabe when his band stepped up for a homecoming show with a difference on Saturday night.

It was the fifth Gaymers Grassroots Gig in a six-part series being filmed for Channel 4.

The idea is to send big British bands home to perform a special show in a terrific venue before a tiny audience. The Twang will complete the set in Birmingham this Friday. Starsaillor played Wigan’s Tavern, The Maccabees Brighton’s Pavillion and so on.

Fitting exactly to bring this year's Liverpool Sound City festival to a close, St Georges Hall can be added to The Zutons’ impressive ‘Pool gig tally following 'The Liverpool Sound show at Anfield last June and then the arena in December.

You could be forgiven for thinking it has been a cracking 12 months for the scouse rockers. Despite being well received as main stagers at practically every major British festival last year, lousy sales figures of their third album, You Can Do Anything, lost The Zutons their Deltasonic record deal. All the evidence points to this suiting the band just fine.

Currently penning album number four and down to play as many '09 summer fezzies as those other indie-men-of-the-moment, Kings of Leon, it seems to be business as usual for The Zutons. Better than usual, perhaps. They have never been keen on the finer details of fame or partaken in big promo packages. Sticking simply to what they do best, The Zutons have quietly become one of the country's favourite live acts.

Saturday’s performance was the perfect demonstration of Zuton class. They trotted out, in typical minimal fashion, and exploded straight in to Why Won’t You Give Me Your Love which had an extended instrumental section packed in for fun.

The Zutons were a member down. Guitarist Paul Malloy, who'd replaced Boyan Chowdhury early last year, was nowhere to be seen. McCabe, as a result, seemed to swap guitars more than usual and his fingers were generally far busier, although the change to the songs was virtually unnoticeable.

It was the buzz of excitement that made the night so special. Most of the audience were lucky comp winners or were on some guest list, even the few who had bought tickets knew that they were on to something special. I won a competition five years ago to spend a day in a London recording studio with The Zutons. Aged 15, I took my mum along, triggering a Mrs and Miss tradition whenever The Zuts are in town. This minute performance in St George's was definitely among the more memorable.

It became clear how many songs The Zutons have had when singles Remember Me, Oh Stacey and What’s Your Problem? failed to get an airing in the tightly squeezed 13-song set list. Even the usual live stormer Dirty Dancehall was left out, but given the “this is just a night in the city of culture but everyone’s whacked, looks like vultures” lyrics, you could say it was inappropriate for St George's.

Through Zuton Fever, Pressure Point, Don’t Ever Think and You Will You Won’t, saxophonist Abi Harding moved continuously on down to Dave’s right, managing to pull off an oversized pair of pale pink culottes in a way that only she can.

Russell Pritchard was burning away on bass as usual. He also deserves more credit than he ever receives for his backing vocal efforts, they add as much to the bands individual style as Abi’s sax.

Completing the quad was drummer Sean Payne. Ever the enthusiast, he was soaked through almost immediately, but held it all together at the back, powerfully pounding his way through the set, which lasted just under an hour.

Valerie, as you would expect, was the biggest hitter on the night and the crowd of around 600 sang it word perfect, even if an annoying few slipped in to Wino’s Lawyer-err-err version.

Although the gig introduced three promising new tracks, the focus on debut album material and size of the venue created a reminiscent atmosphere that felt very 2004, like when the Royal Court was a big step up from Zanzibar on the band’s venue ladder.

What’s more, there was no big finish. After Always Right Behind You, only the second track played from the latest album, it was lights up, job done. Not that it was needed, the tight set and elegant deep-red velvet and crystal chandelier style surroundings put a neater than neat finish on what has been a cracking few days for music lovers in the city.

The three male Zutons even took a much needed group trip to the barbers ahead of the occasion. They must have felt the need to smarten up; after all they are going to be on telly.

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DigMay 26th 2009.

Are you the shrieking 'Blondie' up on the balcony Dave spoke to towards the end for dancing thru the whole concert Heather? I bet you are!

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