The first time I saw The Enemy was at Keele SU back in 2012, so it was really lovely to see Tom Clarke return to the venue at which I fell in love with his music. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of The Enemy’s first album We’ll Live and Die in These Towns, Tom is touring with an acoustic set of the album in its entirety and it was something special.
Opening the bill was local lads The Torch with a stripped back set in comparison to their usual indie rock. Harry Poole swapped his kit for a Cajon drum box, Josh Woody armed with an acoustic guitar and Owen Hodgkinson with his electric. The lads played a laidback set, adapting well to their new acoustic set up, frontman Owen as confident as always chatting away with the audience, talking about the first time he saw The Enemy, supporting Oasis. The Torch played a cover of Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart, an old classic with their own slant, as well as adapting their own tracks like fan-favourite, Riot At The Ritz, the band’s first single back in October 2015. Owen thanked his bandmates as they left the stage before going on to talk about the last time he saw The Enemy, supporting The Libertines, and so closed the set with a cover of The Libertine’s – Can’t Stand Me Now on his own.
Main support came from Joe Doleman, joining Tom for the full tour, a 20-year-old solo acoustic artist from Leamington Spa. He opened his set with a soulful and catchy track entitled Nervous, followed by the heart-warming and elegant Learning To Fly. Joe told us all of his first ever gig six years ago, aged 14, and how he covered Whistle for the Choir by The Fratellis, and so he graced Keele SU with the same track and the crowd joined him in singing the beautiful cover. After successful audience participation, Joe taught us some lyrics to one of his own tracks so the audience could sing his final track from the set with him. With a spring in his step and dancing with every note, Joe is a charismatic and enthusiastic soul with a strong stage presence and huge voice; it’s easy to compare male solo artists to the likes of Ed Sheeran or James Bay, but Joe stands out from these comparisons.
As James – Sit Down played over the speakers, everyone knew it was nearly time for Tom to take to the stage, as it’s a song that always found itself slotted into an Enemy setlist. Tom, alongside keys player Howard and bassist Gaz, took confidently to the stage as they opened with a raunchy acoustic version of Aggro, which maintained the power and angst of the original. 10 years of We’ll Live and Die In These Towns, an album which holds so much sentimental value and nostalgia for indie music lovers, was transformed into a stunning acoustic set in front of just 200 lucky fans. Howard’s keys was a beautiful addition to the set, especially in tracks like Happy Birthday Jane and We’ll Live and Die in These Towns, to which ‘Now, this song is about, is about, is about you’ was chanted by the audience as Tom stood with a beaming smile on his face.
Tom tells the crowd of how, when adapting the album to an acoustic set, they began to look at a particular track and were stumped. ‘It can’t be fucking done. There’s no chance, no way.’ They couldn’t turn such a huge indie rock anthem into an acoustic track. It was the first track written as The Enemy and was now Tom’s favourite acoustic adaption. 40 Days and 40 Nights. Tom began playing the opening chords before stopping and laughing. ‘It sounds a lot nicer if you tune your guitar first!’ Whilst having his guitar swapped, we were formally introduced to Gaz and Howard; Tom said they’d been ripping Howard the whole tour, calling him Susan and all sorts, ‘but tonight I’m just going to let you know he’s a talented bastard.’ And that he is.
‘I want to play you something off the second album. It never worked with the full band and I don’t think they ever really liked it, but I fucking loved it.’ Tom was 100% down-to-earth and honest in the entire set, talking about his music from the heart and matching the stripped back tracks he was playing. He sung Sing When You’re In Love with so much power, I wondered how his lungs didn’t pack in.
Everyone knew there was just one song left off the album that was yet to be played. This song. And so the crowd chanted and chanted as they had done before We’ll Live and Die in These Towns. ‘It’s coming’ Tom laughed ‘but first I want to play a song for you that’s been there in my darkest hours’, he said before covering The Drugs Don’t Work by The Verve, another track that has often found itself in The Enemy’s live shows.
Tom had one last thing to say before gracing us with This Song. ‘Next year’s not a 10 year anniversary, it’s not an anniversary of anything and there’s no good reason for us to do it again next year other than we just fucking want to. If we’re going to do this Stoke, the only way there’s any point is if I write some new stuff; and the only way I’m going to write some new stuff is if you lot want me to. If you do, I’m fucking there and I’m gonna be here every year.’ So, there we have it, it’s official that there’s absolutely no stopping Tom Clarke from creating masterpiece after masterpiece and returning to Stoke again and again. He went on to dedicate This Song to Brian Wheatley, the man who gave him his first ever job, and the crowd sung it with him loud and proud. In an eruption of applause, Gaz and Howard left the stage and Tom began to leave before stopping at the keys, looking at the audience and playing us one last snippet of This Song on them.
Keele saw a beautiful show celebrating The Enemy’s first album’s 10th anniversary, but I have to say I can’t wait to see what Tom produces in the future.