Last night Manchester's Ruby Lounge hosted Arizona residents Kongos, who recently embarked on their second European Tour. The first support band on the night were Good Foxy, who I can't review impartially as I play bass for them. Nevertheless, I can say that Good Foxy were received very well. The second support band, named after their frontman Jordan Allen, played a frantic set of ten short radio-friendly indie songs.
Jordan Allen's sound could most accurately be likened to that of fellow Manchester residents Courteeners. Their mixture of jaunty guitar with catchy refrains worked best on 110 Ways To Make Things Better. However, the late highlight of their set was White Lines. Building from a fragile guitar and vocal intro to a soaring chorus, it was an interesting moment which hinted at greater things for Jordan Allen. Fans of indie rock should watch out for them.
By the time the lights lowered and Kongos' intro music sounded, Ruby Lounge was packed. There was a sense of ceremony that suggested we were about to witness something special. Brothers Johnny, Jesse, Daniel and Dylan Kongos took the stage and fired into Repeat After Me, which showcased all four members' singing abilities. Bassist Dylan took over lead vocals on the low-slung groove of Underground, and on Hey I Don't Know, sounding like Bob Dylan circa Subterranean Homesick Blues. Instrumentally, the band displayed strong country influences, with Johnny playing accordion and guitarist Daniel playing some wonderful slide licks. On Where I Belong Daniel's voice had a yearning quality which was reminiscent of a latter-day Brandon Flowers.
The set's highlight came with a brace of covers. The first was an irreverent take on The Beatles' Get Back. Kongos' version abandoned all but the lyrics of the original and cooked up a potent groove before welcoming their stage manager Mo to the stage. To the collective astonishment of the Ruby Lounge, Mo proceeded to deliver a sublime rap which bore resemblance stylistically to the work of Q-Tip. Arms were literally flying at the foot of the stage.
Kongos' second cover was a song called Tokoloshe Man, taken from the brothers' father John Kongos' back catalogue. At this point their Manchester connection became apparent - The Happy Mondays' 1990 hit Step On was in fact first released by their father in 1971. Perhaps it was destiny that they would fare so well in this city. After the wildly received I Want To Know it seemed that these four American brethren deserved a good rest. But they had more in store.
Returning to the stage for a two-song encore, the band closed with a great cover of New Order's Blue Monday. Kongos haven't received much recognition in Europe thus far, but on this evidence they will be welcomed back to Manchester with open arms. "You're one of the smallest crowds we've played to on this tour," said drummer Jesse, "but boy… you've been one of the loudest. We love you Manchester."
Kongos and Good Foxy got on well at Ruby Lounge last night - photo by Duncan Sykora