7th Sept 2023 – The Deaf Institute – Manchester

I could just write Wow!! and sign off there, but after following Balancing Act for about 10 months I could hardly wait to see them. “The Deaf Institute???” I hear you cry …………..well , if you have never been there you can look up the history of this fascinating venue below , I love it – intimate , great acoustics and the bar is even in the same room!


But tonight, and following a great performance by support act ‘The Kites’ , I’m stood before a dimly lit, red stage along with about 250 revellers eagerly awaiting the arrival of the lads whilst hovering over the merch sold by ‘Cowboy Lou’ and cradling a £5 pint of Madri ( not bad price really ). I can’t recall if it was ‘Sexy Boy’ by Air that preceded their arrival at 9.15pm or not, did I imagine that? However to rapturous applause and in a flash behind my back they were on stage. Now the place was absolutely buzzing, after all, this was the homecoming for my fellow ‘Mancs’ – Frontman and Rhythm guitarist Kai Roberts and lead guitarist Jackson Couzens, and with the rhythm section of David Carpenter on Bass and George Le Page on Drums they kicked off with the aptly named ‘Intro’. To the ‘newbie’ this may have sounded like a short tune-up but they smoothly segued into ‘Cold’, a cracking mid-tempo warm up song for the band. The perfect paradiddles from George and those lovely eastern sounding chords from the Epiphone of Jackson had the crowd bopping along (was it me , did this really sound so good?).

“Very bright up here , can we have it a bit darker?……………… evening Manny!!!” cry’s the charismatic front man Kai, and clad in his white vest he gets the roar of approval I’m sure he was hoping for. “Thanks to everybody for coming down on a Thursday night and great to see so many friends”. More roars of approval and I’m certain had he asked for a pint they would have been 5 deep at the bar! Before long the few opening chords and staccato strokes on a tight snare signalled the arrival of ‘Before I Shoot’ and if I was to recommend a new listener to the band this is the song I would advise listening to first. It contains everything that typifies Balancing Act – spot on tempo, light and shade, superb lead vocals and church-like harmonies. Coupled with heartfelt lyrics it takes you to places in a song where you don’t expect to be , as a drummer myself it’s a great piece of work and very clever .

Now readers, I could wax lyrical about each song played and they were all brilliant, but for brevity I need to confine myself to the highlights, so check out the full set list of new and older songs here. I was kindly handed this set list by one of the band photographers ……… okay, I had to ask her to go back on stage to retrieve it, but nevertheless she could have easily said “do one!” so whoever you were, thank you very much.

Rabbit Hole‘ – A personal favourite and I’m dedicating this to my wife on our 15th Wedding anniversary on this very day of writing . Beautiful lyrics about the complexities of a loving relationship and a moving , dreamy song with pitch perfect vocals, a thudding floor tom-tom and lovely chords .

Cool Shoes‘ – A new one and they have only played it twice, but it was on the set list for the familiar Manchester crowd, I’m glad it was as I loved it and I’m looking forward to grabbing it on Spotify.

Gift Shop‘ – “Time for a good cry” says Kai as this emotional song explores themes of apathy, self-reflection, and the search for meaning . I’m not a lyricist by a long way, but all I know is we have obviously arrived at the more meaningful part of the show as the slower songs kick in and for me it really demonstrates the range of the bands musicianship. Their ability to change the mood from the alternative indie-rocking numbers where we jumped around in unison, to a more pensive mood is uncanny, I haven’t seen anything quite like this in a long time, especially as Kai unstraps his guitar and descends into the crowd for ‘The Saddest Song I Ever Did Write’ (much to the delight of his adoring female fans) , note someone had penned in the words whistle on the set list in case Kai should forget!!

A couple more new ones on the set list before Kai entices us even further forward and generously thanks ‘The Kites’ for their support and of course ‘Cowboy Lou’ on merch ( nice, helpful chap ), before we are back on familiar ground with their latest single ‘Cheshire Smile’. The crowd is bouncing around now and positively encouraged by Kai gyrating in the small space afforded him on stage, whilst somehow managing to display his trademark ‘Jaggeresque’ moves!…….. Just brilliant, the lads are clearly enjoying themselves, even Mr Cool Jackson is smiling and the Rhythm section are rock solid as usual.

Remember what I said about clever mood changing above ?? Well it’s here again, we are back to the thought provoking exploration of relationships with the slower number ‘A Little More Time’, the haunting melodies with that distant Epiphone sound, like some middle-eastern bazaar. On reflection I’m sure we were given a bit of respite there just to cool down – a headphone song for sure, download it now folks but only when you want to escape and reflect! Otherwise we are racing to the finale and a fast moving anthem of the band , the rocking vibe of ‘All Yours’ , we sense the end is near and the crowd don’t want to let go, but sadly for us Mancs it’s all over and the lights ‘go-up’ . Some appear shell-shocked and hang around grabbing merch and photos before disappearing back into reality and the balmy evening on Grosvenor Street.

What a night, would I go again?? ………in a heartbeat!!. The band have far exceeded my expectations, they are refreshing and exciting and have restored my faith in a world that seems obsessed with manufactured pop, tribute bands and mind numbing reality TV. Absolutely outstanding.