Jim Noir LIVE @ Soup Kitchen, Manchester

Perhaps not quite the Pink Floyd style balloons he promised us in our 45 Magazine Interview, but turning up to a deliciously dank basement venue in Manchester to see a band uniformly all clad in white medical coats, is always going to pique the average gig-goers interest.

For Jim Noir and his band of merry men (including a beardy guitarist who could be a pretty good Little John should the axe work dry up), promised that tonight’s homecoming show at Manchester Soup Kitchen would see his first major UK tour for several years out with a bang.

On a number of the occasions across the evening, Jim takes the time to make clear his blueprint for the show:

“First, we’re going to play the album in full, then we’re going to play some hits at the end” winks Noir.

And that they do. Launching into the opener of latest LP Finnish Line: “The Ancoats Dream”, the track perfectly revives the fading industrial landscape just beyond the venue we’re in with a sound dipped in technicolour Beatle-isms. Through much of the evening The Beatles receive a loving foot-note, whether it be the McCartney “Oooh Yeah”s of “Strange Range” or the slinking acoustica of “Piece of Mind”, a wonderfully bucolic nod to the White Album’s “Mother Nature’s Son”.

But indeed, it seems Noir hasn’t just been dazzled by The Beatles’ shining influence in his exploration of the sounds of the 60s. “Out from Within” has the cocksure strut of Small Faces classic, whereas lead-off single “Broadway Jets” manages to transport playful satire worthy of Squeeze (“One girlfriend’s up the duff, he’s given up, had enough”) back to that golden decade on the college vibes of Big Star.

Leaving the sixties behind, the band venture back into the age-evading hooks of Noir’s particularly oddball brand of DIY folk. Tower of Love classics including the nostalgic nonsense of “Eanie Meanie”, the zany pop zest of “Key of C” and an outing of the infectious “My Patch” with extended psychedelic wig out sees the front-man make good on the promise of hits tonight.

Perhaps what he didn’t outline is the amount of comedy and dry wit would be crammed in tonight too.

Across the night, gags are dropped, drums are rolled, tambourines hurled, hecklers put down with whip-cracking quips. But in case, you were in any doubt what those white coats were for, it’s so the mad professor can get to work on a truly mental stage concoction. Noir’s multi-instrumental abilities and comedy come to a head with a truly off the Wall (and stage) rendition of Bonzo Dog Do Dah Band classic “What Do You Do?”. Frenetically flickering his fingers across the divots of a recorder, the childish instrument somehow transfigures into full blown clarinet along the way before Noir can leap into the audience with gung-ho abound. Madder than a Madness wind section with ants in their pants, Jim toots and squeals with wild abandon over the rapidly destabilising cacophony that his band mates are chugging out. After a good few minutes with the band, Noir returns to assess his bewildered audience:

“Sorry if it was a bit rough around the edges there, I haven’t actually learnt clarinet yet” he says with a mischievous grin. Diagnosis? Stark raving bonkers.

Rating: 4 / 5

Words: Graham Lloyd