There was something in the air in Oran Mor last Wednesday night. Maybe it was the feelings of excitement and anticipation that come with seeing fresh, emerging bands; or perhaps the smugness of being ahead of the curve. Whatever it was, you could feel the energy of the sold-out crowd waiting eagerly for Hunter & the Bear to take the stage. Love was also in the air and it was obviously too much for one young couple, with an on-stage proposal just before the band came out. She said “yes”, he smiled, the crowd cheered. Lovely.
2017 has been a big year for the guys with the release and subsequent tour of their debut album, Paper Heart, following on from 2015’s EP, Wildfire. Although they’re not quite a household name, they have released a slew of catchy singles which have gained radio plays and advert appearances and you might be surprised how many of their songs you recognise for a band you’ve never heard of.
The show was entertaining from start to finish; although I have to admit that by the half-way point all of their songs were beginning to sound the same to me. Each one starts uniquely and shows a different influence (I heard Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Rage Against the Machine and Metallica) but soon default to the same formula. Despite this, they delivered a very polished performance which belied the fact that they are only touring their debut album; playing with a confidence and swagger which you would expect to see from an established band’s third or fourth album. They have clearly spent a long time (the band first formed as a duo in 2012 before adding the rhythm section) honing their style and sculpting their tracks into near-perfection. Their crowd interaction was great and it was nice to see the guys sitting at the merch stand to meet fans and give autographs almost immediately after coming off stage.
I am interested to see where they go from here, and whether they have enough creative diversity to keep releasing interesting records. I hope they continue to build on their success and follow-up with an equally strong second album, in which case they could make a serious impression on the UK music scene. Their style of super catchy, safe, chart-friendly rock could win them legions of fans in the middle ground, but will probably fail to excite any die-hard music fans. For now we will have to wait, but if you have the chance you should definitely catch them in their ascendancy when they tour again next year.