Emily Jones || October 13th
Arms & Hearts kicked off his six date October tour on Tuesday night, at The Castle Hotel in Manchester. With tour support Alex Rennie and friends Oli Ng and Chloe Hawes, stepping in for the Manchester show, it was already primed to be a memorable evening.
Up first was Chloe Hawes ("H-a-w-e-s just to clear things up"), an acoustic soloist originally from Essex, but now residing in Manchester. Her voice, a husky whirlwind of emotion, flowed around the small room like musical liquid, rising to the highest point and then retreating. Accompanied by nothing but her acoustic guitar, Hawes played a set of originals to a small but appreciative crowd. Her tracks 'Gasoline' and the brand new 'Hand Me Over', taken from her upcoming EP, stood out as being particularly excellent. Chloe Hawes may possibly be my new favourite acoustic soloist and an act you should definitely endeavour to see live.
Although having travelled several miles outside of the local area, it seems that there really is no hiding from some musicians. Crewe's very own Oli Ng just so happened to be supporting, with his usual set of note-perfect songs that we all love. Opening with a cover of Beach Slang's 'Hard Luck Kid', before launching straight into 'Back In Your Arms', sad song 'Whenever You're Ready', 'Dance All Night' and 'Story', all taken from his current EP titled 'Into The Dark'. It's always the same with Oli; he's always calm, always on top form and always ready to entertain. Finishing up his set, he invited good friend and past-tour buddy Steve Millar (Arms & Hearts) onto the stage, to join him for a cover of 'Red Lights' by Brian Fallon. It was heart-warming and just as lovely to watch, as the two friends basked in the moment right before our eyes.
Then it was the turn of main tour support Alex Rennie, to add his share of talent to the evening. Beginning with 'This One's For You' and 'Get Me Over That Hill', Rennie turned the night on its head, with the softest vocals of the entire line-up. Friends gathered at the front of the stage, cheering him on as he sung 'Mr Cliché', a song he dedicated to Rachel Adedeji (your guess is as good as mine). This one was slightly darker, with a more direct and generally real story to it. He even did "that bloody Blue Lagoon" one, which seemed to gain the approval of his small group of fans at the front. Alex Rennie is the sort of musician you hear, and then find yourself asking "where have you been all my life?". Don't worry, you've heard about him now. There's still time to educate yourselves, by purchasing his current EP 'All At Sea’.
Last, but by no means least, it was time for Arms & Hearts to climb the stage and play his music. Steve Millar seemed on top form, despite a “rough” throat that only seemed to add to his performance. Millar is the sort of musician that throws 110% of his energy and emotion into every gig he plays, moving about the stage in an agitated state of anger, heartache and passion. ‘I’m Not Lost’ and ‘I, Malcontent’, both taken from his ‘Set In Stone’ EP, saw Millar take on this form instantly. He barely paused for breath, shout-singing his words out so that they struck every audience member in their souls. New track ‘Embers’, soon to recorded for another brand new EP, kept the energy level sky high with Millar continuing to move with every rise and fall of the song. Mid-set saw Millar invite Chloe Hawes to join him, for an unlikely cover of Taylor Swift’s ‘Wildest Dreams’ – something they had only decided in their soundcheck. And then it was back to the music everyone had come for; Steve Millar turning into an Arms & Hearts one man band, as he played both guitar and harmonica simultaneously for ‘Troubled Mind, Bloodshot Eyes’.
Millar took a moment to address World Mental Health Day, something close to his heart both personally and through close friends; his track ‘Take No Prisoners’ having been written about a friend who’d come across hard times, relating to mental illness. It was a fitting moment and one that showed a side to Millar that many overlook, when listening to his folk/punk tunes.
Closing his set with ‘Empty Frequency’, taken from his current two track EP ‘The Jaded Captain’, Steve Millar kept his heart on his sleeve until the very end.
And that’s why it’s so easy to like Arms & Hearts. Not only do his lyrics resonate deep within your heart, but his music moves you to a place you never thought you could reach. If their opening night is anything to go off, I’d say that Arms & Hearts and Alex Rennie are in for a cracking few nights on the road.
There’s still time to catch them live, at the following dates:
13/10 Milo Bar Leeds
14/10 The Angel Cafe, Lincoln
15/10 Mucky Muldoons, Cleethorpes
16/10 JT Soar, Nottingham