South By Zero Live at Lions Den

We were invited by the fantastic Manchester pop rock band South by Zero to review their most recent gig at Lions Den in Manchester. Ella Drew and her guitarist Ollie were an impressive duo as the first act of the night. One of the main things I took away from Ella’s singing was that her voice has so much depth and clarity, powerfully expressing the lyrics but with emotion in her voice. Ollie was the crux of the performance providing all of the backing for Ella’s singing, his playing was superb, keeping a great tempo on every song. Ella performed some covers such as ‘Dreams’ by Fleetwood Mac and ‘Redbone’ by Childish Gambino, but showed her song writing talent on her 4th song. The original had some plucky strums by Ollie on the electric guitar marrying with Ella’s voice perfectly. I loved Ella’s take on ‘Redbone’ as it had her own flare on it, drawing out the notes longer as to display her vocal range more, an amazing take on an classic song.

The next act to perform was Tom Bellerby and his band, a ridiculously good performance to get everyone excited for South by Zero’s headline. The band performed a plethora of songs for us, mixing in some originals and some covers but regardless of what was being played it was a phenomenal watch, with the guitarist going above and beyond to put on a spectacle. Tom led the group with some brilliant vocals, crisp and clear despite the large area that the Lions Den venue provides, a great voice for performing. The guitarist to the left of the stage was an incredible player, he went out of his way to add complexity to the tracks he was playing, he even started playing behind the back of his head at one point in the performance reminiscent of the legend Jimi Hendrix.

South By Zero are a duo turned band that we had the privilege of seeing at the Whiskey Jar in Manchester. Knowing how well they performed there it was impossible to say no to their headline gig at Lions Den. The band is made up of 6 members, those being; George Burton, Matthew Bawtree, Emma Halpin, Tomas ‘Faz’ Farrington, Justin Tait and Luke Gardiner. South By Zero really know how to put on a show and we look forward to seeing them again soon! The band introduced their performance by having an audible sketch that introduced themselves, a first that I’ve seen from the gigs I’ve been to instantly making them stand out from the crow d. The introduction itself helped set the perfect atmosphere and prepare us for the great show. The first song they performed was called ‘Waves’ which was written by Faz the drummer of the group, starting out with an intense opening that set the basis for the performance with energy and excitement. The upbeat tempo laid the groundwork to engage the crowd for the rest of the show.

The second song that the band performed called ‘Home Straight’ was written “about a shit relationship” (as the band said) which makes the track hit home for many who have experienced the same thing. The song has some powerful lyrics throughout such as “Is this what it feels like to drown” and “it makes me feel sad, to know that I’m not worth your time” which adds a lot of emotion to the tune. Emma the pianist, started the next one out with a beautiful solo accompanied by Matt on the acoustic guitar. It was evident to see that all of the bandmates are not only amazing performers on their instruments, but that they all are very capable songwriters which is astounding. The track is called ‘Cupid’ which allowed us to take a listen to Emma sing on her own which was beautiful, as Emma, Matt and George are all talented singers. It was at this point that the band added some flare to the performance by throwing some glow sticks into the crowd, which sent the audience into a frenzy, a nice and unique addition that was a fresh take on getting the crowd involved (although the band members were dodging flying glow sticks for the rest of the night which was a sight to see as they were playing). Justin and Luke added the extra depth to the instrumentals, they helped create a more full sound and really impressed us all with their skills on their respective instruments. Every member of the group had a significant role in making sure everything sounded perfect. The band performed a more intimate song on the 6th track called ‘Grow’. This song is about George’s Grandmother, a warming tribute of life lessons and some struggles she faced on her way from Ireland to England and throughout her life. The song is meaningful, catchy and performed so well, what more can you ask for really? The most touching part of the song for me is “she learns stay in your shell, years of pretending and self-condescending, she yearns to be herself”. Then in the latter stages of the song George closes it out alone, a great ending to a great song.

In the later stages of the show, the band performed a song called ‘Open Arms’ which had some audience interaction. The song was another that had touching lyrics such as “I didn’t wanna break your heart but still your arms are open”. At this point in the show, we were all witness to the chemistry between the band, flowing seamlessly through different leads in vocals, staying in sync and laughing together whilst they perform. The last song the band planned on performing is their most streamed song ‘All That Yesterday’ a song that definitely deserves to be added to your playlists. Matt, Emma and George all start out singing together, making this one of the more standout moments as they had pre-emptively mentioned that this was the song to go crazy on, and crazy they went. With awesome light visuals, glow sticks galore, intense rocking music and an amped up crowd, the room was the best kind of chaos, a top class performance from a top class band. The encore shouts erupted and they had no choice but to perform one last song, they choice a cover of ‘Johnny B. Goode’ by Chuck Berry, where we saw Matt doing the signature Duckwalk as they closed the show. A big thanks to South by Zero for the show and incredible performance, Ella Drew and Ollie and Tom Bellerby and his band, make sure to check all of the social media’s linked and make sure you get your tickets for the next show!