United – Pete and the Pirates @ The Cockpit – Leeds 23rd September

It’s been an age since I was last in ‘The Cockpit’ (the 400 mile round trip used to be a killer) but the venue has lost none of it’s magic. Hidden underneath a bridge in Leeds City centre, it festers at the heart of one of the best music scenes in the country. It’s floors are gloriously sticky (in the way all the best venues are) and with it’s ceilings covered with grey corrugated metal it looks like the inside of bomb shelter. If you’ve never been before, make it a priority to go.

The crowd that has amassed within it’s dark halls this evening have a surprisingly diverse demographic. I had turned up expecting a host of locally based twenty something hipsters, my expectations were just plain wrong. In between the adequate support acts (Just Handshakes We’re British and Glass) I met Peter a 44 year old who had made the trip down from Newcastle because “he fell in love with the band at The Other Rooms” in his home town. There was a brother and sister who where in their early teens who had dragged their 50 year old mum along to the middle of the mosh pit and someone of every age in between. I guess the most sophisticated brand of indie pop in the country has the pulling power to unite all ages.

The quartet from Reading opened with “Mr Understanding” and like puppet masters took control of their audiences limbs until the entire room was dancing and chanting along to the song’s infectious hook. From there the band played one of a tightest hour long sets I have seen for months. In which the vocal harmonising between lead singer Tom Sanders and guitarist Pete Hefferan was a particular highlight.

The biggest complement I can pay to the bands set, is just how seamlessly they worked in new material from the recently released second album “One Thousand Pictures.” Normally newer songs stick out during live performances like a sore thumb for quality or performance reasons. This wasn’t the case. Unlike most modern bands they took a relatively long time (3 years) to put out their second album. It was time well spent, as not only have they crafted a new album that betters the first but it’s also afforded the band time to settle into playing these new tracks so that not one song sounded under rehearsed or out of place.

The very best was saved for the sets finale, where they’d played an extended version of the excellent “Blood Gets Thin” during which Tom leapt from the stage and into the crowd, sending waves of excitement throughout the packed audience. It was a fitting way to end an inspiring performance by one of the countries best live bands, I can’t wait till they’re back in town.