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Live review: Purple

Texan threesome keep it short, sharp and showy.

As a general rule there are two types of live bands: those who come to you, and those who expect you to come to them.

In the traditional showbiz model, the former was the norm. But since rock music came of age in the 60s and got a bit too cool for all that crowd-pleasing song-and-dance malarkey, it’s become almost as common to see bands who look as if they’ve just stumbled on stage, possibly under duress as part of some community service order.

The very act of making rock’n’roll music seems to be little more than a necessary evil to them, like lancing a boil in their armpit.

And yet somehow they still manage to do it night after night. That’s because, unquestionably, they get some kind of enjoyment out of it. Furthermore, they believe they’re so good at it that they barely need to court the people who have come to watch them.

You’re in no doubt which category Texan trio Purple belong to, from the moment singer/drummer Hanna Brewer appears clad in a sparkly, sequinned bra top, her blonde hair glowing lilac under the UV lights, yells “How ‘y’all doin?!” and devours the opening bars of recent single Wallflower with the ravenous delight of a fox handed the keys to a farm full of chickens.

Then again, once she locks into a lacerating, Jane’s Addiction-style sleaze-punk groove with beanpole bassist Joe Cannariato and guitarist/singer Taylor Busby, you get the feeling Brewer might have more in common with the Type 2 performing tradition after all. Because while she might have her tongue hanging out and the gleeful expression of a sugar-rushing toddler clattering the pots and pans, she’s also lost in her own private house party. There are only 50-odd curious strangers here at this small pre-tour show on a soggy Tuesday evening, but you suspect she’d give it the same amount of juice if Purple were headlining the main stage at Download.

It helps that all three of Purple have the skills to pay the bills, of course. Nimble bass lines and feisty rhythmic punch, allied to coruscating, grunge- encrusted guitar lines make for a satisfyingly visceral sound on songs such as the pounding, staccato Leche Loco and Target.

The fact that Busby shares lead vocals with Brewer also helps to produce a varied sound that stops and starts, ebbs and flows in a way that always keeps you on your toes. It also means Purple can turn their hand to high-octane surf pop with tattooed knuckles, like Beach Buddy, a boy-girl exchange that epitomises the feelgood punk spirit this band exude from every pore.

Not that this is ‘Party on, Wayne!’ brainless punk pop by any means. There’s a winning wit to barroom seduction tales such as Wallflower, and DMT explains: ‘I like to drink and wear bikinis’ and ‘I’ve seen a Christian marry an atheist’ by way of a defence of freedom of choice. ‘Feel alive, don’t take advantage,’ Brewer concludes.

Alive is the very least we’re feeling after a couple of numbers, by which time Purple have already dragged most of the small audience up the front. And although the band’s set is short, lasting only 25 minutes, with no encore because they’re running through their show for forthcoming support slots, you could hardly argue that you haven’t had your money’s worth – even if the show wasn’t free entry. And, most importantly, it obeys another important showbiz rule: always leave them wanting more.

Johnny Sharp
Johnny Sharp

Johnny is a regular contributor to Prog and Classic Rock magazines, both online and in print. Johnny is a highly experienced and versatile music writer whose tastes range from prog and hard rock to R’n’B, funk, folk and blues. He has written about music professionally for 30 years, surviving the Britpop wars at the NME in the 90s (under the hard-to-shake teenage nickname Johnny Cigarettes) before branching out to newspapers such as The Guardian and The Independent and magazines such as Uncut, Record Collector and, of course, Prog and Classic Rock