That promo photo above is the only shot of Hundred Reasons in this review of their celebratory tour with Hell Is For Heroes and Cable as they wouldn’t let us publish any of them playing live. Nevertheless, Ruth Booth pulled on her old Criminal Damage flares and reviewed 2012’s biggest British alt-rock anniversary get-together.
Six things we learned when Hundred Reasons, Hell Is For Heroes and Cable came to Manchester:
1) The 10th anniversary of Hundred Reasons‘s Ideas Above Our Station: one of the glittering pinnacles of a British rock scene then at the top of its game. The return of Hell Is For Heroes, playing their acclaimed debut, The Neon Handshake, in full. And a reunited Cable, the band in many ways responsible for the whole thing. Of course, while life never meets the expectations of youth, there’s an unresolved tension about tonight – like the perineal space between the break-up and that one last fuck for the road.
2) With late soundchecks, a tight schedule gets even tighter when Cable’s Andrew Baggueley is struck by guitar problems. And to their credit, bar a few minutes fiddling with wires, they soldier on. No nervous excuses, no angst, and with a workman like diligence that belies that solid punch – as sound as a pre-recession pound. Cable always seemed to get a raw deal, not just because of timing, but because you suspect they were too fucking busy balls-front churning it out to complain – or even give a toss.
3) With Hell Is For Heroes, it’s a different story. I can only assume that, upon breaking up in 2008, Justin Schlosberg was anaesthetized and placed in cryogenic storage, awaiting the day when he would be revived, pumped full of vitamins, and pushed in the direction of the nearest stage. There’s no other reasonable explanation for the restless electric fury that’s throwing Schlosberg about the stage, the mic spinning about its explosive axis, before he hurls himself off the speaker stacks. Even four years after going on hiatus, is pure unadulterated magic. Has it really been a decade?
Hell Is For Heroes @ Manchester Academy - 23 November 2012 (c/o Ruth Booth)
4) It’s a rude shock to realise, looking around tonight, how the Hundred Reasons audience have grown up with the band. They’ve got careers now – kids, some of them – mortgages, and money to shell out for reunion tours. Hype doesn’t matter so much to them anymore. They’re still here, trying to recapture that first giddy, sweaty flush of mosh pit romance of ten years past. This gig may have sold out on nostalgia alone. What everybody’s saying – and nobody’s admitting to – is that this could be their last hurrah. While everyone’s squeezing on their glass shoes for the last chance to dance, they’re still wondering whether this will live up to their rose-tinted memories, or turn out to be just a rotting pumpkin.
5) In one respect, that battle’s already lost. Early reports that former guitarist Paul Townsend would join them came to nothing. Yet fans have had five years to get used to his departure, as well as Larry Hibbitt and Andy Gilmour’s vocals. Meanwhile, Cal Owen of Hibbittt’s proteges, Scholars, does a sterling job of filling in on guitar. As does, most importantly of all, his hair for Colin Doran’s long departed afro, as the frontman pogos to the trampoline riffs of ‘I’ll Find You’. To all intents and purposes, this is Hundred Reasons as you’ve always known them. It’s just that we can’t actually show you any photos of this, because the band have decreed that tonight is all about “playing for the fans“, rather than the press, and won’t give permission for any shots to be published.
6) Some may mourn the fact that Ideas… remains their most acclaimed record. Though even those who secretly regard Kill Your Own as far, far superior are appeased by the greatest hits portion of the gig’s two sets. What remains is whether this is the way they should have left it. Beyond the choreography, technical professionalism or ticking song boxes, Ideas Above Our Station is clearly still an album this band love to play as much as we love moving our older bones to it. As the balloons and confetti drop for the encore, this feels like a fitting point for Hundred Reasons bow out, confident they’ve left our memories in safe muscle. If we never knew what we had, we sure as hell do now.