Wednesday 15 February 2012

The Twilight Sad, Stealth, Nottingham

Supported by Childhood

It was supposed to be a three band performance tonight but Let’s Wrestle cancelled last night’s London show due to illness and they don't make tonight's either. Their loss is Childhood’s gain who are promoted to main support and a later slot.

They are, I believe, Nottingham based Londoners. It doesn’t start too well for them, the sound is muddy, but it’s soon sorted. At first, I think, typical indie. Could have been anyone. Probably were. Then they get a bit of a jangle going. Hmmm, quite nice. Catchy. Pleasant. Very clever at times. They steadily win me and everyone else over. In the end we're all sad to see them finish. are refusing to send me The Twilight Sad’s new album 'No One Can Ever Know'. It only came out last Monday, yet they are saying it is out of stock. How can that be? Amazon already hate me and it seems perhaps now that Play do too. A few months ago, they refused to give me three downloads that I’d ordered. They never did say why, although they did refund me, presumably downloads can’t be ‘out of stock’?

So I’m ‘unrehearsed’ for tonight’s gig at Stealth, which as Nottingham’s ‘musical Mecca for dance fans’ is again an unlikely place to see them. It’s almost as if someone is trying to keep them under the radar.

Learning from past experience I opt to stand well back, in what, I hope, is a more acoustically advantageous position. Beeston. That’s a suburb about three miles outside Nottingham for those that don’t know. The Saddos (may I call them that?) are well known for making an ear reshaping but poetic racket and I may need the use of my eardrums in the next fortnight.

The band take to the smoke encased stage fashionably late and set the tone with the thumping bass and heavy synths of ‘Kill It In The Morning’. Rumour is they’ve gone all Cabaret Voltaire and yes I can see that, with a side dish of industrial phase Depeche Mode perhaps.

The formula is repeated on ‘Don’t Move’, which is almost a pop song. Almost. They’re still loud of course but I think they’ve turned it down a notch or two, or is it just my new position?

With the musicians in the band frequently disappearing into the fog of smoke it’s difficult not to centre your attention on the fascinating individual that is singer James Graham. He stands there, at the centre of it all, delivering his vocals as passionately as ever, eyes closed, seemingly lost in it all. In fact I don’t think it’s until three songs in that he actually opens his eyes and realises we're there. Hello! At which point he explains they’re from up in Scotland, there’s nothing like keeping it general, and thanks us for coming before he submerges himself back into his own little world.

So far the ears are fine but the big test is going to be when they play one of their oldies. Enter ‘That Summer, at Home I Had Become the Invisible Boy’. Which is again glorious but have they toned it down? A little. Enough. Tonight, amidst perhaps a more considered approach, Graham’s voice soars above absolutely everything that the rest of the band can throw at him and you can hear practically every word of the song. The band’s trademark guitar feedback is still there but it seems to occur increasingly at the end of songs and less in the middle.

Then it’s back to the new album, from which they play all but two. Among which there’s the faster pace of ‘Dead City’ and the almost soulful ‘Alphabet’. Sandwiched in between is ‘Reflection of the Television’, which is just so massive tonight. All the old ones, maybe just because they are more familiar, are absolutely epic. The cheery ‘I Became a Prostitute’ is intense. Graham makes it so emotional but then he could probably make having a cup of tea seem emotional.

There’s recent single ‘Sick’ which I haven’t quite got to grips with yet but then there’s also ‘Cold Days From The Birdhouse’, which eases its way in gently and then explodes, taking Stealth with it.

As we head towards the end of a mesmerising hour long set, Graham once more opens his eyes and thanks us again for coming before the band wind the guitars up again for ‘And She Would Darken the Memory’ and finally ‘At The Burnside’. An oldie that I’ve not heard them play before.

With a final fading squall of guitar noise it’s all over. Absolutely brilliant and as a bonus, the ears are fine, still attached. The band may continue to fall under the radar but they don’t seem too bothered, me neither, let’s keep it to ourselves shall we.

Thursday 2 February 2012

Feeder, Kasbah, Coventry

Supported by fiN

As we walk in to a very crowded Kasbah tonight and squeeze ourselves up against the bar, the support band are already playing. They’re called fiN, yes that’s ‘fiN’ with some eccentric reverse capitalisation, a lowercase ‘f’ and a capital ‘N’, presumably to distinguish themselves from early 90's band Fin, not that it makes a jot of difference to google.

As they play away we barter with the girl on the bar to find exactly what’s actually available tonight, beer - nope, San Miguel - ran out, wine - nope, shall we just have Tuborg then.

You sort of get the impression that fiN don’t get to play to such big crowds very often but tonight’s 1000 capacity sold out Kasbah doesn’t faze them and the four piece from deepest Surrey throw themselves wholeheartedly into the experience.

On first listen, perhaps just another generic indie band with arena sized ambitions but they succeed by mostly keeping it simple and not adding in keyboards and the like. Coming over as a cross between a roughed up White Lies and a smoothed out Nirvana exhibiting some nice heavy moments blended with some decent choruses, not unlike Feeder in fact.

Tonight is the third date on Feeder's four night stint previewing their new album 'Generation Freakshow' which is due in April and there's quite a buzz around the place tonight. We’re still buzzing away when Grant Nicholas wanders almost unnoticed on to the stage and strikes up acoustic style, assisted only by a little keyboard accompaniment from Dean Deavall, hidden stage left behind a speaker stack. Which is where he stays all night, the guy really should be given a proper stage presence one day, maybe.

I'm not too sure of the merits of opening with a solo acoustic number, it’s a very low key way to start and a lot of people simply continued with their conversations, the philistines, but 'Children of the Sun' is certainly a simple, yet enthralling number.

Then the rest of the band join the party and we're into 'Oh My'. Damon has a shirt on! Blimey. I didn’t recognise him dressed. He’s also looking particularly hairy behind his drums. Grant has had his locks shorn but seems to have donated them to Damon. Then there’s Taka, just being Taka, almost expressionless, powering away on that bass with, just for the record, plenty of hair.

Tonight, it’s all about their new album, album number eight, from which they preview no less than eight tracks. Grant always seem to enjoy himself the most when he's got new music to push, as he’s nearly always evangelical about it, and it’s always good when a band has to work that bit harder for an audiences approval with material the crowd are not familiar with.

The word was that this album would be more commercial, lighter than the previous ‘Renegades’ album but there’s little evidence of that with ‘Tiny Minds’. It’s as heavy as anything on that record.

The best news tonight is that the 'Renegades' album hasn't been forgotten unlike, err what's it called... 'Silent Cry' although the track 'Renegades', undoubtedly the best thing they've done for years, is probably undroppable from the set. However it’s ‘This Town’ that is the first track to get the place really rocking tonight accompanied, as it is, by Damon attempting to punch holes in his drum kit with his sticks.

'Hey Johnny' would also have sat well on the 'Renegades' album but work on that ending boys, it just peters out catching everyone by surprise and quelling the applause. We did like it, honest. We just didn’t know it had finished. Another new number 'Sunrise', a song about the trials and tribulations of city life, is more mellow and jangling, more ‘Comfort-able and Sound’.

All the new stuff is good, very good but what else did we expect. There's no sign of any dissent to the absence of a few set regulars tonight or to the number of new tracks played. The reception is good for each and every one.

The new single 'Borders', which was previewed some time ago now during the ‘Renegades’ tour, has been everywhere recently and on mid week sales this week was sitting inside the Top 40. This is perhaps why so many people seem to know the words tonight about the border running, asylum seeking or just running away from something Jessie. I hope she made it to the Lakes.

Grant wonders if anyone wants to hear the ‘Lucozade' song? On go on then. The beer (well as there was no beer, it must have been lager and cider) explodes in the air for ‘Buck Rogers’, as covered by the 'The James Cleaver Quintet' whilst rolling down a hill.

The best is saved to last though and the finale is impressive. 'Idaho' was apparently written about touring ‘Polythene’ in the States or something. It certainly has the right sound for the era, it sounded like it was off ‘Polythene’ itself. It’s a particular highlight. It would have been cool to have followed it with something actually off that record but a no holds barred ‘Insomnia’ was a good substitute, although it sounded a bit like Grant was playing it with the wrong guitar? Or was it just my imagination that it sound like it was in a different key.

Better still though, was the fantastically heavy title track of the new album 'Generation Freakshow', a song about the student riots and itself bristling with attitude despite being written in Banbury... Promising stuff indeed but when Grant shouts 'Let’s go'... is he trying to start a riot? You can end up in court for even thinking that these days but what a fantastic track and that’s where they close the set, at around the hour mark, which is a little on the short side guys.

Then they return to play two more songs and to end the evening on a 'High', literally. Well not end exactly, that’s 'Just A Day's job obviously and it brings yet another brilliant Feeder gig to a close. With as usual the band leaving you feeling sated but still just craving that little bit more.