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We Are Scientists @ The Empire, Middlesbrough 13th June 2011


“Is everybody in? People don’t fail me now. If no one wants to be up all night, what’s the point in even going out?” – We Are Scientists-‘Break It Up’.

My sentiments exactly, which is why I snatched up the opportunity for another night out with my good friend Siobhan and the chance to see some live music, two things we both love.

We headed down to the venue and arrived just in time to catch the last couple of songs from the support band Tall Ships. I feel these guys deserve a bit of a mention just for the fact that the three band members managed to create an interesting sound using more than just their own instruments. There was much running about and swapping seats, hitting this cymbal and that drum, all of which I found quite entertaining.

After a quick visit to the bar, we were back on the floor to await We Are Scientists. Now before I start talking about the band and their ‘rockin’ choons’ I must say a few words about the Empire as a venue. I have spent many a Saturday night there, in all its nightclub glory, however this was the first time I have been to see a gig there. I was not disappointed. The Empire definitely lends itself to being a venue for bands. The high ceilings make for great acoustics; a bar is situated at either side of the room so drinks are easily accessible; and there is plenty of space in between so that those who merely wish to sway to the music can do so at the sidelines, whilst the younger crowd are free to trample all over each other in the middle of the floor, if the music calls for it.

Back to the gig. The floor was full and it was hard not to get caught up in the atmosphere – there was a definite excitement in the air.

How does a band effectively make an entrance that suggests that the audience are going to have an amazing night before they have strummed the first chord? Saunter on stage, beer in hand to the song ‘I’ve had the Time of my Life’ of Dirty Dancing fame, that’s how. That is exactly what We Are Scientists did and for this reason I liked them at once.

They kicked off the set with ‘Nice Guys’ from their most recent album ‘Barbara’ which was an instant hit with the crowd. Perhaps this was because it has the feel of their older material from ‘With Love and Squalor’ – the album that garnered them mainstream success. Three songs in and we hear the familiar four chord riff of ‘Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt’ to which the crowd immediately erupted and a mosh pit started in the centre of the floor. All that could be seen were arms in the air and drinks flying across the room. “It’s all quite exhilarating” (I think to myself as I look on from my safe spot near the bar). The rest of the set was a well rounded mix of their albums ‘Barbara’, ‘Brain Thrust Mastery’ and ‘With Love and Squalor’ which was delivered with much enthusiasm from lead vocalist and guitarist Keith Murray, who made great use of the stage, whilst bassist Chris Cain remained the epitome of cool and provided the witty between song banter.

The music echoed the likes of The Walkmen, The Rapture and The Editors but with contrasting vocal melodies and harmonies that had hints of Brian Eno and even, dare I say it, Blink 182 (although I’d like to think more sophisticated). I think my favourite number of the evening had to be ‘Pittsburgh’ from ‘Barbara’. It had a great riff, some lovely three part harmonies in the chorus, (something which I love) and what I felt were enjoyable lyrics, like ‘every subtle and stolen glance can’t be any more obvious…we’re only after one thing’. There’s a nice acoustic version of it, I’ve added a link at the bottom of the page if you fancy a listen. It’s missing some rockin’ percussion from Andy Burrows (formerly of Razorlight), but I like it all the same.

Finally there came what most in the room seemed to have been waiting for: ‘The Great Escape’. The crowd was literally bouncing. It was a great finale to the set and spurred the room on to chant the main guitar riff in anticipation of an encore, which was readily given. After three more songs, We Are Scientists finished with another popular number of theirs, ‘After Hours’, leaving us all wholeheartedly satisfied.

I feel we live in an opinionated era, where people often feel the need to ‘speak their minds’. In such a culture, music can often be over analysed and over criticised. Some say that We Are Scientists simply please people with catchy riffs, that they are all style over substance and rely on their ‘kooky’ persona. This may be true, however I don’t feel that this is motivation for actually liking someone’s music. Why did I like We Are Scientists? Two main reasons. Firstly I felt the urge to dance to every song, something I feel is essential for this genre of music (however I held back this urge and merely managed a demure bop). Secondly I couldn’t help but enjoy lyrics like those previously quoted from ‘Pittsburgh’. Sure, it’s not Shakespeare, but it made me smile.

There is no doubt that We Are Scientists are a great live band. If you enjoy your ‘indie-rock’ music, a good dance, Keith Murray’s pretty face, or all of the above, then I urge you to go and see this band if you ever get the chance to. You will not be disappointed.

The Set List:

Nice Guys

I Don’t Bite

Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt


Let’s See It

This Scene Is Dead


Rules Don’t Stop

Chick Lit

Break It Up

It’s A Hit



Central AC

The Great Escape


Foreign Kicks

Can’t Lose

Jack and Ginger

After Hours


The Empire:    http://www.theempire.co.uk/home.html

We Are Scientists:   http://wearescientists.com/

Pittsburgh acoustic on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ZUlM9Ei7Uc

By Clare H on June 30, 2011

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