SCOUTING FOR GIRLS + D3LTA + ANNI POHTO – BRIGHTON DOME 15.11.23
I’ve been writing concert reviews on behalf of Brighton & Hove News for six months now, and I’m surprised that it’s taken me this long to finally review a show at the Brighton Dome! I’ve had the previous pleasure of catching some of my all-time favourite artists here in recent years like Scottish post-rock titans Mogwai, as well as art rock extraordinaires Everything Everything; and Wednesday night saw a jamboree of light-hearted fun from pop rock heroes Scouting For Girls. Lifted and re-oriented from a Scouting handbook entitled ‘Scouting for Boys’, the trio of drummer Peter Ellard, bassist and backing vocalist Greg Churchouse and lead singer and keyboardist Roy Stride were notorious for several charting singles in the UK during the late ‘00s and early ‘10s such as ‘Elvis Is Dead’, ‘She’s So Lovely’ and their only number one hit, ‘This Ain’t A Love Song’ (no confusion with the Public Image Ltd. song of a similar title). Despite the lack of singles chart success in the past decade or so, Scouting For Girls have been able to maintain a devoted fanbase, growing with strength as they tour their seventh studio album ‘The Place We Used To Meet’.
Narrowly making my way through the lengthy queue that seemed to stretch a considerable way along Church Street, I took my seat, up in the gods, along the Circle seating… lovely and comfortable indeed! If memory serves, I don’t recall ever having a seat at the Brighton Dome, so naturally I underestimated just how big the Dome stage actually is (even having walked across it myself for graduation last month). The venue slowly began to fill up, seats and pit alike, as the first support act made their way onto the stage to the sounds of The B-52’s ‘Love Shack’: Anni Pohto.
Self-described as “my voice, my piano and my beats”, Finnish singer-songwriter Anni Pohto has been setting up base in London crafting a distinct, cinematic sound of indie pop with releases dating back to 2013. She begins to ease the crowd gently with a beautiful chord pattern on her Nord keyboard, perched within a small spotlight, already creating an intimate surrounding. Already in this opening track ‘Closure’, Anni displays her haunting falsetto and stunning dynamic control in both her vocal range and her keyboard playing as glistening piano lines travel through the song from start to finish. Anni thanks us all for coming early, stating that this is her second time in Brighton after playing at ‘The Great Escape’ festival back in May this year, before heading into the next song, ‘Into The Wild’. There is a similar low-key atmosphere to ‘Closure’, with a simple repetitive piano motif acting as the sonic backbone to the song, with occasional moments of percussive claps and finger clicks placed between verses.
Following this song, she informs us of her passion for living in a post-genre world, the thought of which engulfs her identity description of voice, piano and beats. Speaking of beats, these are introduced on the song ‘Guidance’, in the form of a slightly drunk-feeling drum machine pattern, backing her Imogen Heap-like vocal inflections that stretch across the Dome. Her beats and backing track provide the song with steady string passages and a cinematic crescendo that is intensely gratifying. For the next song, everywoman, Anni stands from her keyboard, leaving her beats to act as performance support, in a less luscious track, but more lyrically thought-provoking and powerful, with the opening lyric “I am Malala, Princess Diana” grabbing my attention from the start. A beautiful song that lists all manner of influential and significant women, this track was easily my favourite of the set! After stating that the Dome has been one of the most beautiful places she’s played in, we are treated with the only currently unreleased song of her set (the title of which is unknown…), this time with no beats. Anni’s falsetto and piano chords create the feeling of eternally sleeping on a red velvet bed and despite its short length and the occasional chatter from some parts of the crowd, I found this song lovely and stunning! The cryptically titled ‘33610’ is a very bittersweet song for Anni to finish her set on, with a steady drum machine groove and a gorgeous arrangement, leading to what was easily one of the strongest-written songs she presented to us.
Vocals / keys / beats
Anni Pohto setlist:
‘Into The Wild’
Well, one down, but two acts still to follow! The beloved D3lta has been slowly making a name for himself, both here in the UK and in his original birthplace of Athens. Following the success of his home country radio smash hit ‘Strange’ last year, D3lta has been enjoying several tours around Greece, Europe and the UK supporting the likes of London Grammar before hopping on the bandwagon with Scouting For Girls. The quartet of D3lta on keys and guitar, Athens-born guitarist Angelos Serras, London bassist Alex Hancox and local Brighton drummer Josh Caplin make their way onto the stage and waste no time heading into opening track ‘Hot Gun’. Josh kicks it off with a propulsive shuffle rhythm (a rhythm I love hearing in songs; see Battles’ ‘Atlas’ or The Human League’s ‘Empire State Human’ as reference), while D3lta swaggers his way through with an impressively on-point vocal line. The band demonstrate their expert use of dynamic control, particularly in the bridge, as they approach a half-time rhythm that closes the song out. ‘Strange’ follows suit, and it’s not hard to see why this track was a big hit for D3lta in Greece: a lovely Belle & Sebastian-type soundplay, complete with cosy harmonies between Angelos and Alex!
After D3lta quickly teaches his crowd a key lyric to call and respond, he takes us into the song ‘Punching Bag’; needless to say the audience understood the assignment! This track holds a much slower pace, akin to that of classic 90s Britpop, as well as some luscious guitar arrangements from D3lta and Angelos. The song ‘Hooked And Hypnotized’ is by far my favourite track in the setlist, with a funkier sound palate, packed with stellar slap bass and a very infectious chorus melody! Following a brief band introduction, we are hit with the heavier and dynamic ‘Hello’, with D3lta now on electric guitar duties alongside Angelos. The rockier atmosphere works wonders on this track, carrying a lot more instrumental weight compared to the previous songs, not to mention the great chorus yelling of “Hello! Hello!”. The low-key and progressive song ‘Hey You’ comes next (not to be confused with the Pink Floyd song of the same name… although the lyric “did you trade your heroes for ghosts” might possibly be a nod to the group?), within which sits a soft piano chord progression from D3lta as he sings to a sea of phone flashlights. This track easily has the best build-up of any song of the set, with ethereal guitar lines and marching snares propelling the song into glory. Finally, his latest single ‘Happy Out Of Love’ closed out the set, with an almost theatrical atmosphere underneath lyrics about being single and happy. Part of me envisages this track as a weird thought of Lebanese artist Mika covering The Beach Boys’ ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice?’, but that might just be me…!
D3lta – keys/vocals (from Athens)
Angelos Serras – guitar (from Athens)
Alex Hancox – bass (from London)
Josh Caplin – drums (from Brighton)
‘Hooked And Hypnotized’
‘Happy Out Of Love’
The stage was set. The house lights go down for the third and final time, leading to the waves of cheers and whooping flooding the Dome. Shimmering blue lights begin to sweep across the stage as the visual backdrop to the sounds of glitching drums, synths and vocal samples of a countdown… when all of a sudden, the big black cloth that’s been hanging from the rafters all night drops to the floor, revealing the four band members of Scouting For Girls silhouetted across the walls! The upbeat soundscape and uplifting chord progression of ‘The Missing Part’ kicks the show into high gear, with audience interaction from frontman Roy Stride right from the start. Well, what a start to the show! How do you top such an entrance…? Oh yeah, by deciding to play one of your biggest and most well-known hit songs at the start of the set, rather than at the end. That’s right, the band’s only number one UK single ‘This Ain’t A Love Song’ came next, reawakening my memories of the early 2010s with Nick’s very Strokes-like guitar pattern displaying a descending chord progression. On this track alone, you can see the amount of love Roy has for this band; the man never stops smiling throughout the show!
Little to no time is wasted as a short transition into the song ‘Famous’ is interjected with multi-coloured lighting and Roy strutting across the stage with a selfie stick in hand… gotta get that social media bread, am I right?! No? Oh well, anyway, the song itself is tremendously funky with the crowd jumping to the beat in the most neat and tidy manner I think I’ve ever seen at a gig; like sardines in a compartmentalised can. Roy hops onto the piano for the song ‘Love How It Hurts’, which features a disco-like drum rhythm from Peter and some sweet harmonies on the chorus between Roy and bassist Greg. The piano certainly does carry a lot of weight throughout the song, even with how deviously simple the chord progression is. The band quickly segued into ‘The Place We Used To Meet’, a song about growing up in the 90s, with no internet, no social media and no phones…! So, how do the band reinforce this message? By getting the crowd to turn their phone flashlights on, of course! As this sea of phones swarms the Dome, Roy gives us some melancholic piano performances while I remain in awe of the longing beauty of Nick’s guitar tone. The strong fan favourite ‘I Wish I Was James Bond’ came next, with an instantly recognisable piano melody to open it. Structurally and compositionally, this song features a more sophisticated chord and harmonic progression which is always nice to hear, as well as a lovely descending piano line that pops up now and again in the song, emulating the sound of wedding bells!
Now, we come to a vital three-song moment in the set: Roy details the story of Scouting For Girls’ formation, meeting Greg at secondary school and Peter at Scouts. Their first band together was collectively known as Power Cuts, so named because when forming, they couldn’t afford electric instruments, so a small drum set-up was assembled at the front of the stage, with Roy and Greg substituting their keyboards and electric bass for acoustic guitar counterparts as they serenade us with the mash-up of original 1997-penned song ‘I’m Not Over You’ and original single post-record label signing ‘It’s Not About You’. The third and final song of the Power Cuts interlude, ‘The Luckiest Boy In The World’, is dedicated to a friend of the band who co-wrote the song with them… who just so happened to be in the crowd that night and had never heard the song live! The track is incredibly uplifting lyrically, with an impressively rich and full sound, even considering this semi-acoustic set-up. Roy even makes use of the audience by turning them into a two-part harmony towards the end of the song (not quite Jacob Collier-standard, but still impressive!).
“You’ve been watching Power Cuts!” yells Greg as the band revert back to their original instrumental positions. The highly-requested ‘1+1’ proved to be one of the strongest moments in the show as, not only was it the heaviest song thus far, but Roy spends most of his time off the stage, and along the top tier of aisle seats, repeating the verse of “take off your clothes and come to bed”… not going to lie, that lyric was repeated so much, it felt more like an instruction than it did a song lyric! Anyway, after I got dressed, I enjoyed the band’s deliverance of the song ‘Posh Girls’, with an almost skate punk-like pace to it, with one of many slick guitar solos from Nick taking the spotlight. Let’s also not forget Roy’s command of pointing to the poshest/least posh person you’re with leading to arguments between couples that most likely lasted into the night! Yet another huge fan favourite, the track ‘Heartbeat’ held a great balance between its verses and choruses, with a progression that reminds one of a mix between David Bowie’s ‘“Heroes”’ and The Cure’s ‘Boys Don’t Cry’…! Roy tells us a tale surrounding the next song: it appears on their latest album and features an amalgamation of recordings of the crowds’ singalongs from every single 2022 show the band performed. As their label were apparently keen to promote it as a single, they asked for a music video… to which the band decided to commence another amalgamation, this time in video format (cue technician Steve filming the crowd…!).
A cry of “The king is dead, long live the king!” signals the entrance of ‘Elvis Ain’t Dead’, packed with a sweet descending piano pattern and a very strong interpolation of Elvis’ ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love’ (second only to Spiritualized’s inclusion of it in their song ‘Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space’). The band swayed us out with the opening track to the new album, ‘Glow’, a song that pulls in the same powerful punch as at the start of the set, from the driving and propulsive guitar stabs to the pounding drums that lead into its final chorus! As the band leaves the stage, it takes unsurprisingly little time for the audience’s exclamations of “one more song!” to overwhelm the room. Fortunately, we are treated to a staggering encore set, beginning with the song ‘Michaela Strachan’. Now, for a song with a subject matter as interesting as this, an unrequited love for the titular television presenter, it certainly does work as a strong point in the set, and is quite clearly a fan favourite! Following a short and sweet rendition of their song ‘Butterflies’, we come to the ultimate closer, their smash hit ‘She’s So Lovely’. By this point, EVERYONE in the audience is in high-octane interaction, dancing and singing at the top of their lungs to the chorus’ lyrics. This was certainly an evocative moment for me, bringing back memories of dancing to this at a house party in 2017…! And there you have it! Scouting For Girls sends a cold Wednesday night in Brighton into a celebratory ascension of fun and melodic thrills. It was certainly quite refreshing to catch up with a band I had lost all contact with since their 2010 commercial success and see just how much they’ve grown, and I certainly wish the group the best of luck driving their tour into its final leg for the year!
Scouting For Girls:
Roy Stride – lead vocals, keys, guitar
Greg Churchouse – bass
Peter Ellard – drums
Nick Tsang – guitar
Scouting For Girls setlist:
‘The Place We Used To Meet – Reprise’
‘The Missing Part’
‘This Ain’t A Love Song’
‘Love How It Hurts’
‘The Place We Used To Meet’
‘I Wish I Was James Bond’
‘I’m Not Over You’ / ‘It’s Not About You’
‘The Luckiest Boy In The World’
‘Song I Can’t Forget’
‘Elvis Ain’t Dead’ / ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love’
‘She’s So Lovely’