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Secret Night Gang LIVE Review (Brudenell Social Club, Leeds)

With a full band of 11 musicians and singers squished onto the stage at Brudenell Social Club in Leeds, Manchester's Secret Night Gang began their UK tour with the same feel-good attitude their songs deliver.

Photo by Karolina Wielocha

Releasing their self-titled debut LP earlier this month on Brownswood Recordings, the album sits in the realm of high energy funk mixed in with soul-jazz moods that bring R&B, gospel and catchy hooks altogether for a magnificent mix.

“We describe our sound as limitless,” says saxophonist Callum Connell. “It’s not set in one genre, and the album is both a reflection of the past three years, as well as an homage to our favourite music and musicians.”

With Connell and singer Kemani Anderson leading the group in songwriting duties, the togetherness of the group in a live setting feels natural and fun to be a part of. Straight away the music is in the pocket and tight, with the saxophone, trumpet and flugelhorn contributing in solos before the swift move into 'Lonely' that immediately gets everyone moving.

The beautiful voice of Anderson strikes you as soon as he starts. From providing soulful vocals to the upbeat ‘Lonely’ into the chilled out lovesong ‘Wanna Be With You’ where he opens up more, the depth and range of his voice would stand up to any of the legends like Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield and Stevie Wonder.

The Manchester natives Anderson and Connell met aged seven playing football in Fallowfield, but reunited in their teens and formed a promising songwriting duo and cut their teeth on Manchester’s lively jam scene.

From getting their name from jamming in an Old Trafford lockup under the cover of darkness, exposure locally led to the acquisition of drummer Myke Wilson (Corinne Bailey Rae, 52nd Street) and producer/engineer Yvonne ‘D’Alchemiss’ Ellis. The core band features Juneroy on bass, Jack Duckham on guitar as well as guest appearances from Mali Hayes and Doreen Edwards providing sumptuous backing vocals - all of whom performed at the Brudenell on Wednesday night.

With building up a presence nationally with support from Jazz FM, Gilles Peterson, and playing at The Jazz Cafe, We Out Here, Manchester International Festival, and Wilderness Festival, it’s fair to say they are moving their way up nicely in the UK scene.

Before Anderson starts ‘Live Your Life’, he makes a note to everyone to do so as best as you can. It’s here the rest of the band take this onboard and develop a tasty jam for us all to feast upon. The rhythm section is locked in before the keys illuminate the piece as Jack Duckham wails and nails a guitar solo.

The stabs that follow collide sensationally with Anderson’s vocals and the energy remains on ‘Captured’. A breakdown with a crippling bassline is magnificent, and the backing vocalists bouncing the “your love is keeping me” lyrics creates such a pure atmosphere of love.

Photo by Lily Bertrand-Webb

One of the standout tracks from the night has to be ‘The Sun’, flirting between R&B, hip hop and funk before a wonderful transition halfway through into a dubbed out groove. The sensuality of these changes is reflected in each musician on the stage pouring all their emotions out into each note.

The same happens on ‘Fall In Love’ that harks back to a 60s soul anthem before ripping into powerful, hard funk. The disco vibes of ‘Journey’ and ‘You Are My Love’ pitted in between these tunes brings it back around for the audience to once again get their hips moving.

“We write open-ended tunes to let the listener find themselves in the music,” says Connell. “But most of all, it’s not music to think to – it’s music to dance to.” With big orchestrations throughout to keep you dancing, make sure you see Secret Night Gang on the rest of their tour.


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