19 Oct 2011
Section 25 live review @ The Factory, MCR 
Live review by Paul Pledger - Section 25 @ FAC 251 The Factory, Manchester, 8 October 2011

I'll be honest, this was my first visit to FAC 251, opened within the building of the iconic ex-Factory head office, turned three-storey nightclub and venue - a bare-bricked environment perfect for live music, with possibly the scabbiest toilets this side of Deansgate, but a live room that does a decent job with a low ceiling and capable soundsystem. Most importantly, it's all about the atmosphere and tonight there was plenty of it, with good reason – it was the Blackpool band's first return to the venue since their 2010 Retrofit gig. But what made this show a bit special was the business of launching a new Section 25 EP, Invicta, their first new material since 2009's Nature + Degree and their first single since 1988's Jonathan King-upsetting Bad News Week 12".

It also marks a significant step forward for a band already unsteadied by founder-member Larry Cassidy's death in 2010 – this is the brand spanking new Section 25, still loud and still melodic but with a confidence and energy, most of which exudes from live-wire new vocalist, Bethany Cassidy. The more masculine vocals are supplied by limping bassist Stuart Hill (he nearly cracked his ankle a few days previous to the show) and the rest of the band, Stephen Stringer on guitars and bleeps and Vin Cassidy working hard to provide a human percussive element to the setlist's demanding rhythms. Where once there was brashness, there is now beauty with a bite. You could be listening to a new band, such is the shift in direction on some of the older offerings tonight.

From The Hip favourite The Process opened proceedings, presented in its Retrofit finery, before the set quickly shows signs of lifting off with a tough electro rendition of early single, Beating Heart. It's songs like this that benefit from the feminine touch of Larry's daughter, although she does display some gutsier vocal-skills on other songs. The only perplexing change to their catalogue is a slow, almost lounge, version of Rememberance. As an album track, it's a definite techno-pop highlight, but slowed down misses the mark somewhat – it sounds better when pepped up. Thankfully, it's all uphill from here with new electrodisco favourite, Inner Drive and the totally-revamped New Horizon holding sway with the by now busy, loyal and partisan crowd. The new song is a bit of a firestarter when played ‘live, gearing the band up for a boisterous brace of older tracks.

Later on, Beth's sweet-as-toffee tonsils turn into a far grittier soundbase for the always-snarly Wretch, a song from The Key Of Dreams that still surprisingly stands out in the dry-ice haze of a recession-gripped Britain. "You snivelling wretch", she spurts in a barbed manner that belies her approachable and friendly demeanour. The band gamely keep time, before unleashing more post-punk vitriol with Girls Don't Count – it doesn't sound like a sound that recently celebrated its 30th birthday.

Composure remains throughout the last two songs, Garageland and the cracking new single, Colour Movement Sex and Violence, the latter a contender for being the prettiest and most melodic song of theirs since Crazy Wisdom. Or Desert. Or Inspiration. It sounded great on the radio a few weeks back – it sounds even better piped out of a proper rig.

The encore predictably (but thankfully) consists of Looking From A Hilltop, a signature song of sorts and, with my eyes closed for a few seconds, a veritable reminder of how much Beth sounds like her mum occasionally. Absolutely nowt wrong with that – the newcomer has clearly made Section 25's key songs her own, even pausing to dance her arse off throughout the show. They'll be installing mirrorballs next. As an aside, it's a shame they didn't have any nice merchandise installed – people would have coughed up a few quid for an Invicta EP afterwards.

The band have a couple of key live slots coming up, including a support role for Peter Hook and the Light at the Salford Lowry and a stint at Antwerp's BIMFest – you really should make an effort to turn up early to see them.



Beating Heart
Remembrance (Slow version)
Inner Drive
New Horizon
Girls Don't Count
Colour Movement Sex and Violence
Dirty Disco
Looking From a Hilltop

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