Empire Affair @ The Athelstan – review

Sometimes you're better off not building things up in case of disappointment.

As I dragged Mrs gigsandbands off to Southbourne on Friday night the look she was giving me said that it had better be good or else heavy duty DIY would ensue.

I was fairly confident that I wouldn't need to break out the screwdrivers though as Empire Affair had already received 5 stars when I reviewed their superb EP 'Sparks in the dark' earlier in the week.

The big question of course was could they do it live? History is replete with bands where the answer is no so the jury was out.

First impressions can be misleading and as the band kicked off with The Strokes 'Someday' and a poorly adjusted mix I was mentally trying to work out where I'd left my tape measure. Truthfully it's easy to overwhelm the vox when you're sporting 3 guitars and a natty line in drum kits and this is exactly what was going on.

There was a really good mix to the covers and I enjoyed very much finding an A-punk song in there giving Darren Sheppard a chance to impress on his newly spruced kit. If there was one song on the setlist that gave Tallant a chance to shine it had to be a Stones number and 'Satisfaction' was just the ticket. Talking later Neil explained that with a background in theatre he looks to put on a show rather than just parrot songs and we certainly got that on Friday.

However with a swift Knob twiddle by frontman Neil Tallant and a rendition of their own 'One of me' things quickly got on track and I looked forward to a Sunday Barbeque followed by football.

The set list comprised their own stuff interspersed with well known covers. Now having very much enjoyed their back catalogue this may have disappointed but what I liked was that the band settled into, and arranged the covers as though they were their own songs. Not for them the simple impression of another band, instead, as all good bands do they took and interpreted.

Of special mention has to be Their version of 'Teenage Kicks'. People of a certain age may not always be impressed by covers of one of the greatest New Wave bands in history but I was. The guys gave the track a superb energy and enthusiasm and I was almost transported back to a night in the De Montfort Halls in Leicester.

The second half began as the first ended with high energy antics and great sounds.One of the signs of a good band/song is when the crowd start to think it's a karaoke session and the Athelstan's mix of regulars and EA followers began to join in with aplomb. In fact the interesting thing for me was that they sang along not only with the virtuoso performances of cover like 'Use Somebody' but also with Empire's own stuff. Special mention though has to be made of Darren's dad who cuts a rug with the best of them. Man he's got some stamina!

I'll admit to not being sure about the Britney number though!

The great news for Affair fans is that the band are shortly to go back into the studio to record some quite different stuff. As Matt Park explained they are stripping it back and taking a different direction. Some songs have already been written and they plan to introduce synth sounds to their armoury. I for one am particularly looking forward to it.

If you read the music papers it's full of the big kids on the back of the bus telling people that they saw Coldplay when they were great and before they got famous. If you'd like to be a big kid on the back of the bus then these guys are a band you really HAVE to see.

You can find Empire Affair;

on their own site 


On Facebook 


and on soundcloud 


There are more pics here  


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In fact two things shone through - Speaking to the guys after the gig they all said how much they just enjoy playing whether it be in a pub in front of a smallish crowd or on one of their European tours another of which starts very shortly.

The second thing that became abundantly clear at the end of the set as they sandwiched 'Run' with their own 'End of Disco' and the frankly quite excellent 'One night in Munich' was that their stuff stands up easily against some of indie music's best.


 Someday (the strokes)

One of me

The bucket (kings of Leon)


Teenage kicks (undertones)

Dancing on the moon

A-punk (vampire weekend)

Can you feel it

Satisfaction (Rolling Stones)

End of Disco

Run (snow patrol)

One night in Munich

 When you were young (killers)

I'm just starting

Chevy thunder (Spector)

Painted palm trees

What you know (two door cinema club)

Video games (Lana del rey)

Point break

I bet you look good on the dance floor (arctic monkeys)

Don't let me down

Hit me baby one more time (Britney Spears)

Use somebody (kings of Leon)

Pompeii (Bastille)


Go your own way (fleetwood mac)

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