Written by Ryan McIlroy
It’s a cold night in Aberdeen and the city centre streets are quiet. This is a stark contrast to the atmosphere inside tonight’s venue, The Tunnels, as hundreds of people are crammed in, eager and impatient for a hometown return for The XCERTS.
The three piece arrive on stage and are immediately at home, both figuratively and literally. They are bursting with energy as they play through their latest single Daydream – the second from their new album Hold On To Your Heart.
The two singles released so far indicate a definite shift in the direction of an undeniably more mainstream style of music, with the grittiness of their previous material making way for piano and pop hooks. Although the grunge influence had set The XCERTS apart from other bands within the same genre, the new sound is no less enjoyable. It’s crowd pleasing, catchy and almost impossible to dislike when heard live. It is quite clear to see from the bands performance tonight that they are much happier with their latest material as they go on to play two unreleased songs (First Kiss Feeling and Show Me Beautiful) with obvious passion and excitement.
Their live performance is extremely versatile as they switch from heavier tracks such as Slackerpop and Distant Memory from 2011’s Scatterbrain to quiet moments, most notably a solo version of Pop Song with just frontman Murray McLeod on stage. There is also a touching tribute to the late Tom Petty with an impromptu cover of Won’t Back Down that is in no way out of place in the middle of their set.
There is a nod to the die hard fans with a rendition of 2005’s Crisis in The Slow Lane where the singing crowd feature heavily, proving the loyalty of their fan base. Only once is the audience participation coerced, during the aforementioned Slackerpop – where no one is let off the hook until the chorus reverberates around the room like a football chant.
After a 45 minute set, the band returned to the stage for a two song encore, much to the delight of the waiting audience. Initially, it’s just McLeod and his guitar again for fan favourite and the city’s namesake, Aberdeen 1987, a song about the singers youth spent here and the milestones he has now long surpassed.
The song has become a set list tradition over the years and is a guaranteed singalong. They end with Feels Like Falling In Love, the first of the two new singles, and it is a fitting way to end the night, reminiscent of a feel-good song playing over the end credits of a movie.
It’s no wonder there is such a special place for The XCERTS in Aberdonian hearts.
Photo Credit: TLBrooker Imagery