Friday saw one of the busiest nights at The Polish Club I’ve seen in such a long time. Headliners Imoko Set are one of those bands that appeal to many and in having three musicians that have been working the circuit since the mid-90s, they’re damn talented with it. This though was their first and eagerly anticipated live outing since last summer and the departing of long-term vocalist and keyboard player Emma Johnstone. With no official announcement regarding her departure or replacement, the sudden announcement of a new Of National Importance Records collaboration and the release of a new video through their facebook page this spring, saw the band emerge with their new member (and now third female vocalist) Susie Martin. She’d got big shoes to fill. Like the other three-quarters of Imoko Set, she too had been playing in a number of Indie and Folk bands since the 90s and to top it off, she’s got an amazing and very recognisable voice too.
Opening with the stunning Crying in the Temple – all spikey keyboards and tender vocals, followed by The Hazard of Motion from last year’s split with The Black Lamps and I’m wondering if they’ve opened with two of their strongest songs, what on earth could follow?
Well, what does follow is the perfect gig. Tender Heart is all sweeping, lush melodies and is a real showcase for the bands knack at penning perfect pop and new song Hayley is the chance for Susie to shine with her taking on most of the vocal duties. Her harmonies with Jamie are brilliant and her ability to slot into the band is seamless.
They close with another new number, Everything I Know is Lost, and then This is the Language which has all the urgency of Bloc Party’s Helicopter and is the perfect way to finish a set. And with no encore, they really do leave you wanting more.
The band remind me of some of the finer boy/girl groups of the 90s such as Delgados and Saint Etienne and now with Susie in tow, that 60s soul influence is maybe even more evident. On the softer moments Jamie’s vocal reminds me of Tim Wheeler but when they go full throttle, backed by the Morris/Hook style rhythm section of Dave and Andy, he cuts a similar figure to James Dean Bradfield in the latter half of the 90s, when the Manics went all Phil Spector. And like the Manics, they manage to appeal to the Baggy/Psyche Indie crowd without actually playing any such music.
So I finish how I started. They have the ability to appeal to all and now rejuvenated and in what could be considered the band’s third phase, with a collection of new songs and summer gigs booked, they look like they are still contenders for the best band in Barnsley.
Imoko Set play the new Live In Barnsley Festival on Saturday 22nd June and also contribute to the new Of National Importance Records complication which is released this Spring.
Imoko Set @ The Polish Club was the fourth Shotton Foundation event. Shotton5 takes place on Fri 22nd March and features sets from Delta Mainline, This Condition and Toba Caldera’s James and Nevyn.