The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham
Well, how often do you see US chart toppers at a 800 person stand-up venue? I like the last couple of their LPs, after finding the earlier ones a bit precious, so I thought this worth a go, not least as, for the 1st time in ages, I’m seeing a band younger than me. Not that they look it, fer chrissake, most of their publicity shots drawing a Band like vibe, except the Band on their ’69 debut look like One Direction by comparison. And it was good. They hit the ground running with the wonderfully self-reverential and hopefully ironic opener from their new album, banging straight into a stack of songs that amply filled a jangle shaped REM hole in my conscious. But it was if they had played all their good cards first, as, enjoyable OK, it all got a bit safe, dull even. Sure, the musicianship was sound, a special mention for, on keys, accordion and tympani(!), Jenny Conlee, playing like a demented elf, but it all sounds better on record, confirmed by my buying the CD and playing repeatedly today. Colin Meloy’s voice has matured from marmite to a sub-Stipe, but I got bored, however hard they tried to change the mood. Glad I went but I won’t bother next time, no doubt at Symphony Hall or the NEC.
Fans, with beards and flat caps aplenty, lumbersexual heaven, should the weather indoors turn inclement. Some of the blokes had made an effort too, but actually, a huge range of enthusiasm, from 20s to 60s, demonstrating the skill of the band in melding modern with retro, Smiths influenced folk-rock. Venue is tip-top, like more bijou Holmfirth Picturedrome, but I am getting too old for standing, noting, with envy, the seats upstairs. Rubbish beer, tho’ at bad pricing, making me glad to have popped into the Old Crown beforehand
It made me think..
Whatever opinion felt about latter REM, they certainly left a hole, and Mr Meloy, with his cerebral record collection, has certainly found a formula. Buy the record.