Whether you realise it or not, you likely know a Scouting for Girls chorus off by heart. The crowd at the Junction last night was a strange mix of excitable teenagers at their first gig: groups of middle-aged women, and slightly bemused students reliving their own pre-GCSE years and feeling old. Yet when the whole venue screamed every word to ‘Heartbeat’, it was easy to see why the band refer to their fans as ‘the fifth member’ of the group.
After a lengthy wait of an hour and a half, only half of which was filled by admirably game warm-up acts Frank Hamilton and Mike Dignam, the band finally appeared, accompanied by the classic John Williams Superman theme and donning Clark Kent glasses for the upbeat ‘Bad Superman’. It was a sign of the showmanship to come, as frontman Roy Stride led the crowd through the choruses of the back catalogue and songs from the latest album Still Thinking About You. Even less familiar songs were quickly taken up, thanks in part to their well-constructed hooks but also to Stride’s undiminished enthusiasm throughout the set.
The set has become extremely polished in the years since the 2007 release of Scouting for Girls’ debut album, which included live staples ‘Elvis Ain’t Dead’ and ‘She’s So Lovely’. ‘Elvis Ain’t Dead’ was interrupted by Stride’s rendition of ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’, which was almost drowned out by the shrieks of those who apparently occupy the surprisingly large intersection between fans of Elvis and Scouting for Girls. When the band launched into ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’, Stride bounced up and down with the audience, who belted out the chorus.
Scouting for Girls have released an admittedly catchy bid for the Christmas number one, but it felt out of place amongst the rest of the set, particularly as it’s still November. The band’s Christmas jumpers and Santa hats at least suggested they weren’t taking it all too seriously, but its inclusion as the penultimate song of the night worked purely due to the goodwill they’d built up with the crowd.
The fact is that Scouting for Girls are one of the most likeable bands in pop rock; it’s easy to see that they still enjoy performing their older songs, like the teenybopper favourite ‘Posh Girls’. ‘Home’, taken from Still Thinking About You, was placed near the end of the set and noticeably showcases a more mature version of the band’s indie rock sound, but Scouting for Girls have nonetheless clearly decided to own their status as highlight of the school disco. Somehow, they’ve turned it into a live experience which will have you wishing you were fourteen again.