NORTHERN QUARTER: The Doll Hospital, Manchester.
You might feel like you’ve been stitched up when you see the obstacle course that obscures the entrance to this new Piccadilly haunt, but even if you arrive with a serious injury, it seems the staff are on hand to make you feel better. Such is the trendiness of the bar on the “upper ward” that the temperature was closer to zero than the city’s feted carbon emissions. Suffice to say that the mercury began to rise sharply when NORTHERN QUARTER hit the stage.
You may be forgiven for expecting a bunch of Old Town bores given the localism suggested by opening instrumental “Trans-Pennine Express”, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. This was not so much a journey but a descent into an intoxicating malady, although it would be hard to say whether the train would be north or southbound. And as singist James Roe appeared on the crowded stage he put some of the patients off their hospital food, removing one mask to reveal yet another, and another beneath, depicting all kinds of facial expressions.
From subsequent tracks such as the poignant Sentinel Street, it’s clear that you won’t need a cardiac monitor to find out where NORTHERN QUARTER’s heart lies. Their songs seem to inhabit the very infrastructure of the New City.
They may need to up the pace to keep pulses racing for a longer set, but going by these symptoms, the prognosis is good for NORTHERN QUARTER.
Ian Kirkpatrick, The Buzz, Issue 11
(Extract from the novel Look At What You Could Have Won)