In the process of just a few months, Manchester duo Hurts have become one of the breakthrough acts of 2010. Their début album Happiness entered the album at chart number four, thus confirming their stylish and melancholic synth-pop belonged in the mainstream. A show at The Ritz, a venue ingrained in Manchester’s musical history and folklore, is the perfect place then for Hurts to confirm an impressive six months in the city that made them.
Despite their penchant for intensity and their self-regarding aloofness, Hurts are relaxed and friendly. The wonderfully named Theo Hutchcraft, associated more with deep gazes of meaning and for pulling shapes borrowed from pop’s history of tortured crooners, than between-song banter, was more than amicable and created a warm rapport with the crowd. “I’m afraid Kylie’s stuck in Rusholme on the 142,” he explained Kylie Minougue’s absence for their duet with her on ‘Devotion’. It was as if they could now afford to let their guard down, and as compelling as pop pretension is, Hurts are much better for it on stage.
The group’s acute sense of theatricality and an awareness of pop’s obsession with image and iconography translates effortlessly in performance, but there are moments when you notice that Hurts lack consistently great tunes. Too many songs are simply forgettable and trite; I begin to wonder if Hurts focus too much on style than substance.
When Hurts get it right though, any misgivings are forgotten. ‘Wonderful Life’ is as good as it is on record, and ‘Better Than Love’ is a euphoric closer, that has the enraptured audience bellowing every word towards the stage. Many were pining for an encore, but Hurts know that you should always leave them wanting more.
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