Tuesday 18 September 2007

Air Traffic, Rescue Rooms

I'm at the Rescue Rooms again tonight exercising my 'open mind theory'. That is, do not dismiss something you know little about. Even so, I have to keep reminding myself that it's not the dreaded Keane that I'm about to see but a band from Bournemouth called Air Traffic. My friend thinks that they're rather good. Based on the few tracks I've heard, I'm not totally convinced but of course they may be a totally different animal live.

I miss the first support band, who were on at a ridiculously early 7.15 but I catch the second half of the set by the second support band. They are from Dundee and are called The Law. Now I recall that in the early nineties Paul Rodgers of Free/Bad Company and Kenney Jones of Small Faces/The Who formed a super group called the Law and had loads of 'famous' guest musicians playing with them. I'm not sure the Scottish Law know this but their logo is stunningly similar.

New Law

Old Law

They sound like they want to sound like the View or perhaps they just want to sound more drunk than the View. Either way we'll move swiftly on.

My friend introduces me to a couple of his mates and one of them even buys me a Newcastle Brown. The conversation turns perversely from music to marathons, one of them did the Robin Hood Half at the weekend. Just as we're getting round to triathlons and I'm recommending bikes to him, the band come on and spoil it.

Hang on a second, this isn't Keane, this is an indie band, two guitars, bass and drums. Standard indie fodder but still not bad. Mrs Keane has obviously run off with the Gamekeeper and their affair has spawned a love child that is called Air Traffic (I really must stop these Lady Chatterley references).

Then after just one track front man Chris Wall spoils it by putting down his guitar and instead sitting at a side-facing keyboard. Oh my God, it's Coldplay.

After one keyboard driven anthem we get another and another and another, all with soaring choruses. Although at times the rest of the band seem to be playing a different tune. It's like Chris Martin backed by the Fratellis.

To be fair, Wall's vocals are strong and when the keyboard / indie guitar combo works, it works well, such as on 'Just Abuse Me' but after a while, the songs start to sound rather similar or like Travis or Snow Patrol or... well you get the gist. The other problem is that with him sitting down you can't see him. It might look good on Jools Holland but it doesn't work in a nightclub. You need to stand up mate. That is if you want to be a proper front man. Play your keyboard eighties tea tray style or get someone else to do the tinkly bits.

I start looking round at the crowd, a mix of couples who are probably my age but look a lot older, all nodding along in time, with a few twenty something's, drinking at the bar, thrown in to bring the average age down.

Thankfully every so often, Wall does stand up and when he does he picks up his guitar and lifts the pace with a indie dance floor filler such as the lurid and catchy 'Charlotte'. It shows a more daring side that seems to drag the attention of the twenty something's away from the bar, but just as the crowd gets going it's time for more keyboard. He is good with his keyboard and he's determined to make sure we know it but there really is far too much of it. Especially because a lot of the tracks really don't need it. They're simply trying to do too much, be too complex. There's a good tune in there fighting to get out but they're smothering it. At one stage the rest of the band start beating out the rhythm on three separate drums, that works, but it's a fleeting moment.

The crowd is also very quiet, the Rescue Rooms is about half full, and when he announces that they are recording a live version of their new single 'No More Running Away' at every tour date, he also has to appeal to the audience to make some noise. Which sums it up really.

It was a good evening because Air Traffic are pleasant, if a little annoying, a band looking for an identity but looking in the wrong place. Chris Wall will probably be huge when he goes solo and records an album of power ballads. Then his backing band can really get down to some serious Chelsea Daggering.

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