REVIEW: The House of Love Belfast Limelight 26th January 2005

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I passed a personal landmark tonight. I last time I saw the House of Love was in March 1990, nearly fifteen years ago, easily the longest time between seeing two gigs by the same band. (The Go-Betweens had previously held the honour, but 1989 to 2000 was only a paltry eleven years!)
Despite this being the first show of their reunion tour, and it was also the first time that Guy Chadwick and Terry Bickers had been on stage together since 1989 following his hasty dismissal from the band in the middle of one of their tours, the venue isn't as busy as I would have expected.
What did I expect though? There is a new album due very soon so I expected them to play a lot from it, I thought they would revisit their first two albums because of Bickers involvement with them, and that would be it.
I was right. We heard a lot of new material, some of it simple gentle songs which pass you by on first listen, some of it genuinely interesting new music. I will definitely be checking it out. One surprising thing was the whole no-budget aspect to this tour. They have little in the way of backline amps, the drummer has a huge bend in one of his cymbals, and strangest of all Guy and Terry seem to be sharing a guitar tuner! I couldn't really say if they were getting on together or not, Chadwick doesn't give a lot away on stage, and Bickers does most of the talking to the audience. It's great to see them back up there though and impressively Chadwick's voice sounds richer and deeper than I remembered it, and the new song which starts with their joint vocal harmonies is one of the real highlights.
Most people who will have googled for this review will be searching for information on what old songs made it into the set. 'Hope' and 'Christine' are the only ones to surface in the early part of the 90 minute set, but as the show draws to a conclusion we get 'The Beatles and the Stones', a slightly subdued 'Salome', and the absolute highlight was 'Love in a Car'. The crowd pleasing 'Shine On' and a lovely 'Man to Child' are the only others which I recognise.
I enjoyed the show, but I got the feeling that some people came away disappointed - there was no 'Destroy the Heart' by the way - but ultimately I was reminded tonight what a great songwriter Chadwick can be. If this was a new band in their early 20s touting these songs around the music biz would be creaming themselves. As it is, the House of Love are too long gone for most people to remember, and too out of time to gain a new audience. But for us thirty somethings who were there the first time around, this was a long overdue reminder of their talent.


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