On 11th February 2011 at 21:57 Anonymous 9789 wrote...
Cracking review. The "rough-as-a-badgers arse aesthetic" line made me laugh.
It was a great gig (especially for a wild, rainy friday night!).
Live at The Hop (Wakefield) on Friday, 4th February 2011
To set the scene, savage winds and sideways rain plague the landscape on a dismal student night in Wakefield. The quiff-brigade are looking disgruntled and a tad worse for wear - there isn't enough hair gel in the world to keep that storm at bay. Away from it all, in the upstairs of The Hop, good things are happening.
Allegedly starting the night off on a healthy 5 beers, Brown Hound James kicks things off with a steady set of rock tinged acoustic tunery. The beer may expose a few rough edges but by and large this gentleman's efforts remain well received. Some jazzy chords and a few pleasingly hit-and-miss high notes save this from being just another douchebag crooner who's discovered that women just might hang around a bit longer if he turns their name into a song title. Laddish odes like 'Heartbeat of the Town' hint at a punk rock past and an occasional nod to Frank Turner makes this a promising opener.
Next up is Mi Mye (or Jamie Lockhart, for those less into conspiratorial pseudonyms) for some decidedly imprecise balladry. Not that that's a bad thing - the wailing vocals over lazy guitar chords work very well to fit in with the rough-as-a-badger's-arse aesthetic. Combined with conversational lyricism and a Scottish twang this makes for a thoroughly endearing set. It's fuzzy and hazy but it keeps your attention. Sometimes reminiscent of the ambient quirk of Mimas (though crossed with the Pogues' happy-go-drunkly vocal delivery) Mi Mye take the quality up a notch.
Rosie Doonan, Wakefield's very own folkstress, has a ballsy streak that automatically carries her away from the wafer-thin, 'fragile lil' lady' stereotype that plagues the acoustic scene at present. Confident chatter in thick Yorkshire tones reveals an earthy side to her that her lilting voice masks. Technical problems stunt the performance from the start but she recovers well with a speedy setlist change. With her two instrumentalists either side of her she looks incredibly comfortable and some solid singing, sturdy finger picking and dextrous mandolin soloing (and various accordion interjections which make a nice addition to the texture) mean her songs come across with stunning clarity. The songs themselves are fairly standard folk-pop affairs but then originality is not particularly necessary in the idiom and the tunes are very well put together. A strong set, unfortunately cut short by time-constraints, by a promising young talent on the scene.
Having cramped the stage with as many keyboards as is ever going to be necessary, Lone Wolf (and band, if we're being particular) step up to show us what's what. 'This is War' kicks in with incredible clarity, Paul Marshall's silky voice drifting out with comfortable ease letting the potent, occasionally cryptic, metaphors glide softly between the ears. By the time the driving bass drum starts pounding it's very clear that fears of a wanting live translation are to be left very much at the door. The group move as a unit; the songs pulsate with an organic heartbeat held together by sturdy piano, precision finger picking and spacey, minimalistic drums.
In fact, the album tracks seem to have been reproduced by the letter. One could maybe criticise this as a lack of imagination but when you're playing music that has been so well calculated to begin with, it's hard to think of what could possibly improve it. What is noticeable is the occasional nuance that really tips it over the musical edge - trumpet lines moved to a distorted guitar which trembles with new atmosphere, the seemingly constant tag-team instrument changeovers executed without hitch and the incredibly affecting climax of 'The Devil and I (Part 2)' which reminds you that it's subtleties like that which made you bother with music in the first place. Had the sound cut out at this point, a crudely audible "Fuck!" could have been traced back to my lips.
The new material, too, shows some development introducing more groove into proceedings. One track reminiscent of Thom Yorke's solo attempt stood out in particular with a repetitive drum beat looping throughout still, though, with that same Lone Wolf pulse. Economy clearly a factor, Marshall and his team of multi-instrumentalists navigate the stage in a borderline comical rat race, occasionally leaving the stage looking decidedly one-sided and giving the impression the drummer may have forgotten to shower that day. Some technical difficulties in the form of a misbehaving amp also add a touch of light entertainment - it's not really a live gig unless something gets ballsed up.
Even the solo songs 'We Could Use Your Blood' and 'Dead River' smack of the same atmospheric soundscape template that could easily serve as a perfectly adequate accompaniment to a Lord of the Rings montage (there'll surely be some fanboy trying it as you read). It's a gorgeous set, with soft colours, epic builds and subtle imagery. A pleasing, albeit unintentional, lack of encore tedium meant that by the end of the awesome 'Keep Your Eyes on the Road' one was left satisfied, all without being forced to cuddle afterwards.