Three and a half years ago, The Xcerts came to Cambridge on a cold April night and stunned The Portland Arms with an absolutely fantastic show. So when it was announced that they were returning to The Portland as part of the National Lottery’s #ReviveLive set of shows and tours, Rock Sins was going to have to be there.
There’s a few things working against the band tonight; Namely the fact the gig was rescheduled from the night before, having been postponed because of The Queen’s funeral. The trains from London and Stevenage are also completely, for lack of a better expression, buggered, with multiple offers of free tickets for the show on social media in the hours before doors. So when The Xcerts take to the stage just after half eight (having no support band on this occasion), there’s a decent crowd in, but not as full as either it should be or the band deserves it to be.
It doesn’t affect the band at all, far from it; Those who are in attendance are given a show that both feels like The Xcerts (9) could be performing to thousands and stays really intimate at the same time. An opening run of Drive Me Wild, Daydream, Shaking In The Water And We Are Gonna Live is something most bands can only dream of having in their arsenal, and it was received both very well and loudly.
After explaining that their new album is “98% finished” and talking through some of the delays, admitting “the problem really is just us” to much laughter, Xcerts frontman Murray Macleod debuted a new song, Everything I Cannot Live Without, with just his acoustic guitar for company. It sounded very promising. The same came be said for another new song called Jealousy played later in the evening that got the full band treatment.
With other songs from the wonderful Hold Onto Your Heart like Crazy, Show Me Beautiful and of course the title track going down a storm, perhaps the most magic moment of the evening came courtesy of an old song. Aberdeen 1987, as it often can, with just Murray on his acoustic lonesome once again sounded magnificent as it echoed off the walls of The Portland Arms. He looked close to happy tears as he left the final part to the crowd who responded with a tuneful bellowing of the chorus. Audience participation was again at a maximum for the closing Feels Like Falling In Love, with the whole band looking delighted at the closing sing-a-long, and the night as a whole.
The Excerts put on a truly wonderful show that deserved to be in a much bigger venue with a crowd many times bigger than what it was. For those who were here, it’s one they should remember for a very long time. Murray Macleod remains one of the best singers in the UK – in any genre – and they know how to write songs with serious hooks. Let us all hope that the long awaited new album helps to elevate them to the position in the UK music scene that they deserve.