Sodastream/ Airport Girl/ Gethin Pearson/ Julian Donkey Boy@Kro Bar, Manchester

Arrived late and only caught the end of the opening act, next time I get the chance I'll make sure I catch all of Julian Donkey Boy's set. Just him, guitar and occasional harmonica; the obvious comparison is Badly Drawn Boy. Except young Mister Donkey Boy seems to have a lot more tunes and a humorous way with words.

With minimal fuss Gethin Pearson crack on with things, they employ a violinist and a lap slide player in conjunction with the eternal guitar/bass/drums triumvirate. I know this because I saw them right there in front of me, but can only conclude that the sound-man was on an acid trip as the violin was almost inaudible and the slide guitar wasn't much higher in the mix - perhaps leading to some of the band's subtleties being lost. Sometimes they like to push things along a bit but are heard at their best when they relax and slow things down a little.

Airport Girl on the other had start in relaxed fashion and then slow things down even more, the half dozen members (metaphorically) hanging together rather loosely. They've a cellist who bangs enthusiastically on a tambourine when not otherwise required, and a keyboardist who can blow a mean melodium. They don't go in much for audience interaction or between-song repartee, but when the music's good it's best to let the music speak for itself. I enjoy their set very much.

Top of the bill are Sodastream, the much travelled Australian duo. Thankfully they don't appear to be cricket fans and make no mention of the recent Ashes series, what they are is very talented; a singer/ guitarist and double bassist who play beautiful introspective songs. There's a delightful interlude when a saw is brought out and played with a bow (something I've not seen for many a year) but both these chaps wear their talents lightly with quiet modesty and gentle humour. An encore is demanded and they ask for requests, then proceed to play each song that's been asked for - that's what you call pleasing the punters allright. (Laurence)

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