ON a personal level, there is always a certain sense of smug satisfaction to be gained from seeing a band you’ve liked for a while grow in popularity.

For me, this was the case with Honne , the treacle-voiced University-friends-turned-musical-duo of Andy Clutterbuck and James Hatcher.

Honne played Manchester just over a year ago at The Deaf Institute, and on Wednesday (October 26) night they were back in the city, this time entertaining a packed and sweaty Gorilla, whose low ceiling, club-style set up suited their brand of sultry-soul down to a tee.

Up first, though, was singer-songwriter Liv Dawson.

Sometimes acts seem so at odds with the band they’re supporting it raises questions as to who should be fired for allowing this to happen.

This was not such an occasion. Fresh from the release of her EP ‘Reflection‘ last month, Dawson’s vocals were almost unearthly, delivered with a dreamlike quality which, whether done so intentionally or otherwise, added to the sense of late-night post-reality that Honne’s music seems born from.

Before Honne took to the stage, one assumed (perhaps unjustifiably) that this was to be a rather slow affair, a pleasant enough evening, but one which you’d happily enjoy sat down, with your mum and a glass of Merlot.

In fact, the music was pleasingly upbeat, with emphasis on the synth and funk that underline a lot of their tracks.

The band opened with ‘Treat You Right’, a crooning, lovesick apology, followed by some quick-fire tracks from July’s debut album ‘Warm On A Cold Night’, including fan favourite ‘Good Together‘.

Honne have been described as ‘re-inventors of baby-making music’, and a particular standout performance by frontman Clutterbuck, who seems to have perfected the bruised-yet-suggestive vocal to great effect, was testament to this.

Aware of this, Clutterbuck explained unapologetic sex-anthem ‘3AM‘ with a roguish smile, saying “this one’s about doing stuff…well, you probably already know. Some of you might be thinking of it right now, I don’t know.”

The set concluded with a rendition of arguably the band’s biggest hit to date: ‘Someone Who Loves You’, co-written with coolest-hair-in-the-business ‘White Tiger’ singer Izzy Bizu, whose vocals were done justice by backing vocalist Naomi Scarlett.

The crowd, buoyed by Clutterbuck exclaiming that “we’ve just come back from touring the States, we’ve been all over England, and James just said ‘this is the best gig ever!’”, clamoured expectantly for an encore.

Sure enough,Honne returned to the stage to play the album’s eponymous hit ‘Warm On A Cold Night’, before ending the evening with stripped back versions of ‘Woman’ and ‘All In The Value’.

Honne ’s music works best in an almost ethereal atmosphere.

The tender – yet often sensual – lyrics, sung with the vocal equivalent suggestive raised eyebrow, coupled with soulful, well-produced synth beats mean that the music lends itself to mystery, and such an atmosphere had been carefully cultivated at this show.

The stage was lit almost entirely by the word Honne, the colours and pace of the lights shifting with the music to compliment the buttery vocals and sustain an almost provocative spell over the audience.

I’ve always been a fan of Honne, but wondered just how much further their music could be taken in a live setting.

In fact, in the year since I saw them last, the musical duo have blossomed into confident, fully-fledged frontmen, who manage to take seductive soulful vocals and make them surprisingly danceable.

Yet, I can’t help but feel some of the bewitchment will be sacrificed at larger venues…

By Polly Riggs

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