LAST night (April 21) The Ruby Lounge, Manchester welcomed, EX-Inspiral Carpets front man Tom Hingley and band to the stage, not once but twice. Hingley performed two sets, first of all his modern solo material, before returning to play a ‘covers’ set of Inspiral Carpets material under the guise of the Kar-Pets. Quays News entertainment reporter Will Stevenson went along…

The unique billing also plays host to a plethora of under-the-radar talent, including young openers The Atmospherics. The Blackpool-based band took to the stage with gusto, despite a sparse early turnout, thrashing out some pretty well crafted high energy modern rock songs. Its rare in 2016 to find a new rock band without any cross-genre bells and whistles, but The Atmospherics are just that. They may dress cool, they may have nice hair, but at the end of the day they spend their set cranking out high octane, balls-to-the-wall rock tunes.

Next up is the first appearance from Mr. Hingley himself. Taking centre stage in an over sized suit, balding hairline on full display against the hard stage lights, Tom doesn’t look much of a showman. Indeed, this set is all about the tunes, including standout track “Toy“. There’s little stage banter, but what there is was straight to the point: “We’re gonna do an album yeah, it’s gonna be out next year. This is a song from it called ‘Prodigal Son'” being a particularly wordy highlight.

Tom HingleyIn his own restrained way, though, Tom does seem incredibly pleased to be performing. His stage charisma has something of Jack Black’s character from School of Rock about it; his moves are inelegant, he’s undoubtedly past the age of commercial, mainstream success and yet he’s impossibly endearing. That Hingley remains playing small stages in Manchester 30 years into a prosperous career for the thrill, the rush of performing is proof that he’s in it for the music and nothing else.

After Tom leaves the stage, the mind bending Aziz & Dal take to it. The unconventional two piece spend a while on stage tinkering with their instruments before their set proper gets off on a strange note; the start of the set proper isn’t heralded by any sort of acknowledgement from either member of the band – it kind of blends into the soundcheck. After about a minute of incredibly proficient guitar playing however, it becomes clear that their set had begun.

Aziz, the guitarist of the group was stunningly good at his instrument. He switched between blistering solos, entrancing acoustic segments and heavy metal riffing within seconds of one another, all whilst maintaining an excellent degree of showmanship. He acted as though shredding the guitar was the easiest thing in the world, lifting it above his head whilst thrashing out solos that were full of technical skill, passion and groove.

Aziz and DalAccompanying this was an incredible performance from bandmate Dal on an unusual instrument – the tabla. Dal’s technique was impeccable and the way the two incorporate the instrument into their progressive rock sound works surprisingly well. The only flaw of their remarkable set was that with no emphasis on vocals their set did seem to drag on slightly towards its finale.

After a slightly longer than planned intermission, Tom and co were ready to return to the stage. And boy, did they make a powerful return. Bursting onto the stage clad in wigs and looking at least ten years younger, the re-energized front man leans deep into the crowd singing his old songs at the top of his lungs.

By now, the crowd are acclimatised and intoxicated enough to let go of their inhibitions too. The set of classics including “Joe” gets the crowd singing along, waving their arms and even sets some off dancing. This adds immensely to the atmosphere and its feels though the room was transported suddenly back to the 1990s. The difference in attitude is so stark its almost amazing that both bands are fronted by the same Tom Hingley. He owns the stage, prancing, dancing and jumping about with new found abandon.

The band themselves are perfect too, offering note-for-note recapturing of the original bands studio sound whilst maintaining a level of stage presence and never making it look difficult. As with Tom, they all look thrilled to be performing with grins etched across every members face.

Though it is incredibly schlocky and somewhat ridiculous premise, The Kar-Pets definitely pull off a phenomenal tribute act with seeming ease, giving the crowd exactly what they wanted and more. It is worth mentioning, also, that the band collected donations, from a bucket passed around the crowd, money for homeless charities in Manchester. A class act and a great night out.

By Will Stevenson

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