Sunday, 31 March 2019

Sound of the Sirens at Band on the Wall, Manchester

Sound of the Sirens
Band on the Wall, Manchester

It's easy to be drawn into the popular belief that the creative music scene is disappearing under the considerable weight of conveyor belt manufactured acts and the instant - yet strictly temporary - gratification of the streaming world.

Yet scratching the surface reveals a different story. In my experience, there are still numerous artistes who are putting in the hours to produce crafted, significant songs with a message far deeper than 'stack 'em high, sell 'em cheap.' Don't be fooled by the lack of airplay; beautiful, moving songs are still out there, but one has to do a little more digging than in former times.

I can strongly recommend investigating the work of a whole range of relatively new artistes, including Gabrielle Aplin, Hannah Grace, Freya Ridings, Lauren Daigle, Emma Stevens, Lucy Rose...and Sound of the Sirens.

I had wanted to see Sound of the Sirens - Abbe Martin and Hannah Wood - for some time and it was ironic to see the North East date of their current tour clashed with my ticket to see Amy Macdonald in Manchester, last week. Further irony was added to the equation when it became clear my only realistic opportunity to catch the tour would mean a speedy return to Manchester, just one week later - and on a school night, too...


It was my first at the intimate venue known as Band on the Wall. It is quirky, with friendly staff and particularly impressive furniture. It is not often one gets to pull up a chaise lounge while awaiting the evening's entertainment. had been a long day
I even found a chess board, but - alas! - not the pieces.

There was also quirky evidence that the venue sometimes offered soul music.

A door opened at the appointed time to reveal the music room. The temporary chairs are in neat rows, school assembly style. The stage is augmented by a fine backdrop curtain and the distinctive Band on the Wall logo (which brought to my mind the image of a latter-day Groucho Marx ).

The stage was already decked out in Sound of the Sirens livery, with the 'time' theme from the new album cover consistently in evidence.

I always like to catch the support acts, even though a significant percentage of people tend to delay your arrival until the main acts appear. This time we had an enjoyable set from James Holt who scored over some support acts by engaging with the audience impressively quickly and by not making the classic mistake of talking too much between songs. Given a standard 30-minute slot, the trick is to let the songs do the talking. James did exactly that, confining his chat to short introductions. Towards the end of his set he listed to the usual social media outlets he inhabits, before asking, 'Any I've missed?' which was met by a rapid, one-word reply from a vocal local yokel: 'Tinder!'

Following a short break, the Sirens took to the stage amid a palpable atmosphere of excitement and anticipation, with the announcement that they would be 'playing a mixture of things from our new album…and bits of everything from our old material as well.' 

The latest album, This Time, is a deep work.  'The themes of time, love, loss, perseverance, hope and clarity are intertwined in these songs' and there should be plenty of resonance within those themes to reach even the coldest of people.

The songs are delivered passionately. There is no 'filler' material to be found anywhere in their catalogue; everything hits the killer bullseye. The darkness of the themes plays against the demeanour and personalities of Abbe and Hannah, as evidenced by the nature of the between-song discussions, which covered aspects of life including the perils (or otherwise) of cutting your own hair immediately before each gig, fair warning of a pre-song blow of the nose, the delights of vegan sausage rolls ('and we're not even vegans'), their love of merchandise - including tea towels - and tales of a mean Headteacher who only ever allowed pupils to cap with one finger - which is why they formed a band to ‘make so much noise.' There was also a mention that they are going to run the London Marathon this year, to raise fund for MIND.


Various guitars were utilised throughout the 90-minute set, plus a mandolin, piano and a foot-powered drum plus percussion. The vocal harmonies were sensational and featured many instances of 'the ancient art of weaving.' The closeness between Abbe and Hannah makes them such a powerful unit. At various moments during the songs they turn, in unison, to make eye contact, almost as if they are connected on another level.

The set list evolved as the evening went on. It started off looking like this...

...but I believe this what we actually experienced (although I am open to correction).

Set List

Count Our Luck (T)
Another Day (T)
Chaos (S)
Awakening (T)
Troubles (T)
All We Need (T)
Yellow Road (T)
Lie Awake (T)
All the Webs (T)
Keeping Us Alive (T)
Through the Night (T)
Four O’Clock (T)
The Order (T)
The Voices (S)
In This Time (S)
Next Year
Every Time (T)


Grow (S)/Together Alone (S)

(T) = the song is from This Time
(S) = the song is from For All Our Sins
Next Year, 'a Christmas song with an all-year round message' was, as far as I can tell, released only as a digital single. The message is that 'the presence of people is more important than the possession of things,'

During Lie Awake, the Sirens brought the audience into play for some split-room singing and as everyone was very much under their spell by then it worked brilliantly.

Abbe and Hannah are self-effacing and like to joke about how dark their songs are. This is oversimplification, as the songs may speak of various weaknesses, regrets and failings of the human condition, but crucially they are full of a strong defiance that performs alchemy on the darkness to convert it to a genuinely uplifting experience. The evening's finale, Together Alone, emphasises the powerful message:

'Find the chance you wish to see
It's the same for you and me
Say it when you feel it, contemplate real bravery
Go and break your boundaries
Go and sail across that sea
Beyond the moon
So soon your time will come

Take that idea and go run
Time - there's never too much time
Time forever on our minds...'

The songs, the delivery, the image, the sentiments, the atmosphere...I loved it all. Thank you, Sound of the Sirens, for a truly inspirational and memorable evening.

Find out more about the Sound of the Sirens over at their official website.

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