The introduction of a unique blues based sound onto an increasingly crammed and cloned indie scene provided 22-20s with a leg up back in 2003, and they exploded onto the circuit with an air of casual cool that would follow throughout their career. Britpop had staggered to its death, the British alternative scene was searching for a new direction and, long before Arctic Monkeys showed up and pointed the way, 22-20s were the likely pioneers. That was until they suddenly announced their break up and disappeared as quickly as they had arrived.
Their music continued to circulate after their demise through both a large online cult following and its use in commercials, and the band began to sporadically reappear on the live circuit, eventually finding success overseas, particularly in Japan. It was therefore quite surprising when it was announced that 22-20s would be performing at Lincoln’s Duke Of Wellington last weekend, the city’s self-confessed ‘most intimate venue’, which is essentially a loft above a pub. Unsurprisingly it sold out, and another gig was scheduled for the preceding evening.
Friday night began with two support acts, the first acoustic warm up far outshining the second band Lost Souls, a half decent Kasabian inspired outfit that were largely spoiled by the try-hard front man and his exaggerated display of arrogance (apparently some people do see Liam Gallagher as a cool role-model).
Opening acts over, 22-20s took to the stage in a typically nonchalant manner, sound checking their own equipment and talking to fans in the crowd before leaving the stage momentarily, only to swagger back on and dive headfirst into the set with I’m The One, and it was loud. Very loud. Seemingly too loud for some of the older audience members, who rushed back from the speakers covering their ears and trying to stop their hearts exploding at the pounding of the bass drum.
From the first note it was apparent that they are a band that prioritises earth-shattering dynamics and creating a resounding impact over niceties and a properly mixed sound, but that’s what an intimate rock gig is all about, and it certainly left an impression. Though their sound has evolved far beyond that of the blues musicians who inspired them, the raw, genuine passion with which 22-20s performed was in keeping with the spirit of their peers.
The set contained fan favourites such as Shoot Your Gun and Such A Fool, blended seamlessly with material from second studio album Shake/Shiver/Moan, which is currently unavailable in Britain. Four of the new tracks were handed out on the doors prior to the gig in the form of a live EP, and two of the four, Latest Heartbreak and Shake, Shiver and Moan, were two of the set’s strongest songs. Predictable encore Devil In Me set about a frenzy that threatened to shatter the floorboards and scatter sweaty audience members down into the bar below.
After the encore, once the room had mostly emptied and the steam began to clear, guitarist Dan Hare spoke briefly about the gig. ‘We opened for Band Of Skulls last night and played to about 2000 people, but I preferred this. When you open for someone else it’s great, but you’re not playing to your fans, whereas this was a much more intimate and personal atmosphere. I think we definitely had more fun tonight.’