I hadn’t intended to review The Sway at The Angus Tap and Grind (henceforth called The Angus), but sometimes you have such a great time that you want to share the experience with others. This is one of those occasions.
The Angus is a relatively new venue in Liverpool. Situated on Dale Street, on the edge of the busy central business district, it faces a lot of competition from some well established, well renowned pubs. It has a great selection of real ales and craft beers, the staff are very friendly, but it’s USP is a commitment to support local, live music. It’s ambition is to put on ‘regular live acoustic music…and provide intimate concerts with artists we like’. Opened in August of 2020 The Angus has so far been thwarted in it’s aim due to the pandemic. What it has been able to achieve so far is a set of very intimate, socially distanced gigs featuring artists of the calibre of John Power (Cast, The La’s), Nigel Clarke (Dodgy), The Real People, Tea Street Band and Peach Fuzz. Because of their socially distanced nature these gigs sell out in minutes. So it was with some delight that after 90 seconds of tickets going on sale I bagged a table for two to see the manufactures of silky melodies, and the catchiest of hooks, local boys: The Sway.
If it needed underlining, then The Angus’s commitment to supporting local music was highlighted by it’s pre-gig playlist. As I sat sipping my pre-performance pint, I was treated to a packed Scouse smorgasbord – with tunes from The Pale Fountains, Julian Cope, Miles Kane and The Cheap Thrills among others.
There is a really interesting twist to the start of the evening. Being such a young band, and not having an extensive back catalogue of songs to call on, the three-fifths of The Sway who are performing tonight have decided that they will individually perform a few covers, before coming together later in the evening. It was an intriguing exercise. You can learn a great deal about the musical influences of a band by listening to their choice of covers.
First up is Ryan McNee, who in looks, style and attitude resembles a very young John Power. His first choice of song was as much of a surprise as it was a delight. To a certain demographic in this city, and further afield, The Saw Doctors – N17 is the soundtrack to countless family celebrations and innumerable house parties. Second-up is Ciaran Smith whose brief cameo stuck to the local theme with a version of You To Me Are Everything by The Real Thing that got the seated crowd shuffling in their seats. Last but not least comes Aidan McLean, normally seen behind his keyboard, but here playing acoustic guitar. He takes the dual roles of Morrissey and Marr performing Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now before finishing the mini ‘set-of-sets’ by covering America‘s classic – Horse With No Name.
I think the three singer-songwriter-musicians will freely admit that they were slightly out of their comfort zone with their solo performances. They had no need to feel that way, they were amongst friends who were as forgiving of small errors as they were appreciative of the great tunes.
There were no such nerves on show when three members of The Sway came together to play their exuberant brand of up-beat, soulfully psychedelic tunes. Their set started with Changing, a song that highlights all that’s best in The Sway’s work – joyful songs with simple catchy hooks, upbeat rhythms, and great harmonies. This section of the set also included Step Right, with its plaintive piano intro, which soon speeds up when the sharp, jazzy infused guitars kick in. After the briefest of interludes the second half of kicks off with Don’t You Wanna Be (Happy) – another song that starts gently before taking off with swirling, jangling guitar riffs aplenty. A bit like a Raheem Sterling run, The Sway do enjoy a sudden change of pace. There’s a new song (to me at least) Scruffy Shoes, before the night climaxes with the song picked for the This Feeling compilation album – Big In 2021– the swaggeringly jaunty, vitamin D filled – Sunshine Seeker.
By the time The Sway had finished, the sun had set and the fluorescent street lights were blinking along Dale Street. Inside The Angus, all was bright and shiny and happy. The Sway’s song’s are musical sunshine, put your shades on and give them a listen.