It’s little surprise that James Skelly and The Intenders - the new solo project from The Coral’s frontman - are supported by fellow Wirral band The Sundowners tonight, as the headliners would be stuck for a guitarist and female backing singers if they didn’t bring them along.
The Sundowners aren’t mere hangers on, though. With two frontwomen lending the five-piece a distinctly Abba look, and a profligate number of distinctive Rickenbacker guitars on display, the band certainly look attractive, and they back these looks up with some confidently delivered, zinging Mersey-fied folk rock.
There’s nothing that sounds quite like the hit single that will launch them just yet, but they can take comfort from the fact The Zutons were in a similar position when they were supporting The Coral back in 2003, starting a career arc that would lead to that Amy Winehouse cover.
After this dash of glamour, James Skelly looks a little like a curmugeonly allotment holder, what with his brown cord hat and jacket, but the occasional terrier-like smile reveals he’s enjoying himself.
He told the YEP in a recent interview that he was looking forward to getting back on stage as “the songs really come to life live” and he wasn’t wrong.
After the opening track and current single You’ve Got It All - co-written with Paul Weller and not without a hint of Style Council to it - the band launch into Do It Again, a track which, on record, is a standard soulful blues soul, but live is something far more vivid and contagiously energetic.
Sticking with the recently released debut album, Love Undercover, the band power through Sacrifice, Searching For The Sun, Set You Free and Here For You, before dipping back into The Coral back catalogue for tweaked versions of Liezah and Gypsy Market Blues.
Shadows Fall, from The Coral’s 2002 debut album gets more than a mere tweak, pleasingly reworked as a chilled dub reggae number.
After that, Skelly drops a powerful cover of one of his favourite songs, Ray Charles’s I Don’t Need No Doctor, before the band take new song You And I and drive it to a suitably frenetic conclusion before disappearing off stage.
In the encore, Skelly revisits one of The Coral’s sweeter songs, Jaqueline, before a voice in the crowd requests one The Coral’s earliest songs, Skeleton Key, leading a perplexed looking Skelly to lightheartedly admonish, “Skeleton Key? You should’ve been there at the time.”.
He’s not entirely reluctant to visit past glories, though, as the band then deliver a rapturously received take on 2002 hit single Dreaming Of You.
The front of the crowd is bouncing by this point, and they keep on moving as Skelly belts out Ben E King’s Stand By Me, worked into such a feelgood frenzy that the dancing doesn’t even stop when the band finally leave the stage, the audience happy to groove to the soundman’s choice of Arthur Conley’s Sweet Soul Music.