The Neo @ Crown & Sceptre Hotel
10:45pm, Sat 19 Feb 2011
Ever since my first experience with The Neo in 2004, I’ve been a massive fan; I’ve seen them perform several times since, and every time (no matter how hungover they appeared) they managed to pull out all the stops and put on a great show.
But, arriving right on projected starting time this evening, I looked onstage and briefly thought I was way too early; I didn’t recognise anyone up there. It looked like a bunch of smart-casual, middle-aged men doing the sound check. But then a bearded Tim appeared, followed closely by Jack and Liam; Tim announces that they are, indeed, The Neo, and – despite the best efforts of cyclonic weather up North – they were here to play a bunch of original songs.
Now – the crowd sitting quietly in the Crown & Sceptre’s back room didn’t seem to recognise The Neo; I get the feeling that most of them were Neo-n00bs. So I imagine the promise of all-original songs may have been a bit daunting to them… but that didn’t seem to matter, because within a couple of songs the crowd was up and jumping around.
The band is still tighter than a duck’s chuff, freely swapping guitars as various people covered Robbie Hoad’s missing bass. Tim is still an amazing vocalist, freely ducking from soaring notes to staccato rap, and blasting the harmonica sweetly; Jack is still the consummate crowd-man, hopping through the bouncing mass while playing guitar. The horns are used sparingly, but effectively, and they’re not afraid of extended renditions of their songs, allowing plenty of opportunity for an initially gentle tune to verge into funk and chunk and back again.
The highlight was, undoubtedly, Bus Blues – all tight funk and rap in the verse, with a big hornsy chorus that never fails to bring a smile to the face. Unfortunately, I had to leave with a couple of songs still to play – but it was bloody brilliant to see the guys play again. I love The Neo :)