Amazing. No one in the packed art gallery is more than ten foot away from The Coral.
One of the most celebrated guitar bands in the UK in the last 20 years has taken one night off its current tour of 02 Academy-type venues to perform an acoustic set inside RedHouse Originals art gallery in Harrogate.
The occasion is the launch of this Liverpudlian band’s first-ever exhibition, a collection of artwork designed by its drummer and co-songwriter Ian Skelly for the band’s recent album Distance Inbetween and their new EP Holy Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues.
This exclusive show is a little slice of evidence the town is a bit cooler than it thinks it is.
But, more than that, it’s a tribute to the energy and and spirit of this amazing gallery which punches way above its weight.
While trying to avoid bumping into the psychedelic Victorian-inspired cut-and-paste prints and framed handwritten song lyrics, the audience are craning their necks around me next to the film crew shooting the event to get a better view.
What a night. What an exhibition. What a gallery.
The sound from the pudding bowl haircutted and serious-looking James Skelly (vocals) and bearded, long-haired, floppy-hatted Paul Molloy (acoustic guitar) is perfect – clear, sharp and sweet.
Bearing in mind the nature of the exhibition at RedHouse, most fans of of The Coral standing shoulder to shoulder near me and the film crew have been expecting a setlist of recent songs.
Instead, The Coral twosome treat us to a delicious mini-selection of the band’s hits. In their acoustic nakedness, the likes of In the Morning, Pass It On and Dreaming of You are revealed as lovely little gems of songs, Skelly singing beautifully like a world-weary choirboy.
Afterwards I grab a chat with Ian Skelly, whose artwork on the album has been nominated for Best Art Vinyl 2016 alongside albums by David Bowie and James Blake.
Despite hints of Victoriana, I suggest that his surreal collages are reminiscent of the early 70s days of underground newspaper International Times and the novels of Michael Moorcock.
Skelly nods in agreement and mentions Moorcock’s connections to Hawkwind, another band whose sleeves were steeped in a surreal world somewhere between nostalgia and sci-fi.
Ian Skelly pauses, then adds: “My art is mostly influenced by the words in our songs. The two go hand-in-hand. We are a band.”
The Coral: Distance Inbetween exhibition is at RedHouse Originals Gallery until Thursday, December 22.