Rock City, Nottingham
I remain, I feel, in a minority here, a sole figure occasionally banging on about this band. and now, on the cusp of their 4th full length recording, here was the opportunity to catch them live, so very glad it was taken. Strange, I would think their brand and style catnip to our increasing and increasingly grizzled ranks, they taking the cream of 1980s “big music” and drawing it into a credible new century focus. Originally a trio, now a duo, the band is from London, yet is undoubtedly a celtic band, the sound and the phrasing of the lyrics unmistakably of their forbears. (Bear’s Den. Bearsden. In Glasgow. Geddit?) Chock full of the chiming anthemic stylisations of Big Country, U2, early Waterboys and, yes, even Simple Minds, heavy on the chorus pedal and lots of harmonics, the songs all have a wry yearning feel of a life just escaping ones grasp or hold upon. But, with the addition of a folk application of banjo, as an occasional lead instrument, definitely not bluegrass/country banjo: think the banjo in Del Amitri, and the genius of occasional mariachi trumpet, and the sound is whole.
I was worried how the duo plus touring banjo sidekick could cut muster, but any such concern evaporated as six of them trooped out, Andrew Davie and Kevin Jones, singer/guitarist and guitarist/bassist respectively, together with touring member Christof Van der Ben on more guitars and banjo, augmented by a bassist, doubling on 6-string when necessary, a drummer who also played trumpet and a keyboard player adding 2nd trumpet and euphonium as well. Rehearsed to precision, the set included a lot of new, starting and ending with songs from the album due in a fortnight, with others dotted between better known songs. Not that you could tell the join. The sound was initially a tad muddy, the brass necessary, cutting through the murk in the 2nd song and pulling the sound desk into focus. 90 glorious minutes, plying the new amongst the old, the fast with the slow, the triumphant with the yearning. A mid set highlight came as Davie, a burly boy, bespectacled and benevolent, pulled out his guitar lead, the rest doing the same, congregating at the side of the stage for a transcendent unmiked ‘Sophie’, 3 guitars, banjo, trumpet and euphonium. Becoming a cliche these days, the unplugged offering, tonight this was jaw-dropping. More songs and the end, ahead of a 3 song encore, wherein the trick was related, as the core duo alone repeated the trick, this time from the middle of the audience. Pin drop.
Wonderful, wonderful evening.
A packed venue, my first trip here. Most ages, 30 to 60 plus catered for, mainly 30 to early 40s, heavily partisan, up to speed, courtesy the band website, as much with the new as the old. A good venue too, with a decent bar, even if they had, to my wife chagrin, run out(!) of wine.
It made me think..
No new bands? Think again. And, yes it is true, they may be outriders of the execrable Mumfords, gaining a foothold on the business through that connection, but the is a world apart. Do yourself a favour and look them out.