Upon entering the Toff, Albert Salt is capturing the crowd’s attention with his impassioned note-perfect crooning to ‘Fear & Loathing’ off his latest release Dearest Stranger. He uses loop pedals to copious and great effect; the disco beats of ‘Fear & Loathing’ make you want to get up and boogie. For his next number, ‘Positive’, he proclaims it was only written this morning, so he’s brought the lyrics along just in case. His confession makes us like him that little bit more. Albert Salts’ rendition of Gotye’s ‘Heart’s a Mess’ stirs the heartstings, and does the original proud, as does his version of Justice’s ‘We are Your Friends’. The guy is a one-man party band.

As the anticipation builds, and the room fills with punters, New Zealand darlings, Cut Off Your Hands, burst onto the stage and launch into their first number, awash with jangly guitars, lovelorn lyrics and a frenetic pace that doesn’t abate; it’s clear to see why they are such crowd favourites.

Here to showcase their sophomore album The Hollow, lead vocalist Nick Johnston’s voice is full of longing and desire, giving each song a melancholy edge. His energy is relentless and infectious, spilling into the crowd and inciting some inspired and vigorous dancing. Nick engages the audience from the outset and his singing technique sees him caressing the microphone with his lower lip. A bit of microphone foreplay always helps establish rapport with the punters.

The other members are right up there in terms of pace with Jonathon Lee’s guitar antics harking back to the Smiths, whilst Bassist Phil Hadfield and drummer Brent Harris match the speed and intensity of their band mates. The short sharp post punk songs leave no time for ennui.

The set draws heavily from their latest release The Hollow, but there are enough older favourites to encourage a mass sing-along. Newer tracks ‘You Should do Better’, ‘Nausea’, ‘All It Takes’ and ‘Fooling No One’ are interspersed with old chestnuts ‘Still Fond’ and ‘Turn Cold’ and towards the end of their set, they pull out the crowd pleaser and a bloody brilliant song to boot ‘Oh Girl’.

It has a perfect guitar intro, superb tempo, a tinge of sadness and yearning, but then when you can’t think it can get any better than this, things are taken up a notch; for the encore, the band reaches its crescendo with a smashing rendition of art-rock ‘You And I’, urging the crowd to sing along and dance, whilst the band bring the house down and tear it up on stage. Cut off Your Hands are simply awe inspiring.

– Anna Megalogenis