Live at Faversham on Saturday, 28th April 2007
A prolific indie band and a back-to-basics set from a folk-rock band interspersed with poems sung by a rather quirky young man to backing tracks on an iPod were always going to make for an extremely odd gig experience.
This evening proves to be every bit as curious as promised. As soon as first act Derek The Poet takes to the stage, the room takes on a singular atmosphere. Reciting poems that are as embarrassing as they are entirely unexpected, the fifteen minutes dedicated to his set drags on terribly. On the bright side, for once I don't feel a single pang of regret when he leaves the stage. This really is no place for backing tracks and half-sung-half-spoken idiocies - but then you do have to admit he has gall to give such a performance in front of this audience.
The Pink Mountaintops follow. There is obvious musical ability on show as the duo switch between various instruments and vocal duties. They whiz through some tracks that are not particularly well received - the announcement of their last song induces a happy cheer from the crowd. This is perhaps a little unforgiving; while The Pink Mountaintops won't set the world on fire on the strength of this set, sometimes bordering on the banal and lifeless, they do have some quite catchy tunes. Throughout their set, various members from the other acts accompany but, for their finale, almost all those involved take to the stage. It becomes energetic and a real riot of sound and it's a shame that the rest of their show wasn't like this. Possibly a lot of the lethargic quality of some of the songs can be attributed to a lack of musicians and so a rather thin sound - they should be played loud and proud, rather than in a cut-down acoustic style.
Sadly Derek The Poet comes back before Cold War Kids make a full entrance. This time he's pulling out all the stops as the NME press are present. As he stands on the speakers, an audience member gives his shirt a deserved but childish pull. Things obviously have had to get worse before they get better.
Luckily when Cold War Kids launch into their fantastic set, I'm reassured that it was worth suffering Derek The Poet to see this. The stage suddenly seems far too small. Cold War Kids are obviously serious about their music, and it shows through the perfect set. They play a great mix of well known tracks off "Robbers and Cowards" as well as some older material, all of which is equally soulful and ambitious. The wonderful distant and reverb soaked sound from recordings works fantastically well live and is very engaging. The performance of "Robbers" is particularly impressive: The Faversham hits the lights and Cold War Kids are equipped with torches which are flashed around the room, perfectly in key with the atmospheric song. Simple but incredibly effective. During this, Derek The Poet appears playing a spoon and a bowl that both gradually become trashed - the only useful thing he's done all evening.
"We Used To Vacation", their opening track, sounds very fresh and is lapped up by the audience and, arguably their most successful piece, "Hang Me Up To Dry", does not disappoint either. A Tom Waits cover is also a lovely addition to the performance, well suited to the style of Cold War Kids.
Cold War Kids have got a bit too big for the Faversham's boots and the ceiling is dripping with sweat and there's barely room to move, but I would more than happily have stayed there listening to this remarkable band a lot longer.