Live at City Varieties on Tuesday, 31st July 2007
Euros Childs, former frontman of Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, provides some strange folk indie to warm up the crowd. Along with Pete Richardson on bass guitar, cymbal and bass drum, the duo perform some crazy but comical songs about things like donkeys, new orange sandals and "The Welsh Live Aid"! Using an old keyboard that Childs found in a skip, the pair use it to produce basic drumbeats incorporating the very best in Casio keyboard beats. 'Circus Town' makes the most of these samples, sounding like a crazy soundtrack to some big top adventures. Some songs are sung in Welsh, like the track is 'Dawnsio Dros Y Mor' ('Dancing Across The Sea'), a great song but don't ask me what the lyrics mean!
A track from new album 'Miracle Inn', 'Outside My Window' is self-explanatory. 'My Country Girl' is about a two-year-old's joy at receiving some new orange sandals . The best and kookiest song is 'Look At My Fridge' (who's name was changed to 'Look At My Boots' twice) where everything is cool, all the more cooler for the plonky keyboard and space-inspired sound effects.
There are a few cock ups but the lads don't care. They ain't producing a masterpiece here, just some quirky comical folk indie. You either like it or head to the bar until the next set.
Up next are ex-Belle and Sebastian member Isobel Campbell and ex-too many to list Mark Lanegan. A few songs happen with not a word from anyone (they are introduced by the promoter but the band do not speak). That is until someone shouts "Hello!" Campbell says hello, but informs us that Lanegan does not speak. Should be a quiet gig all round then, as Campbell sweet tones are whispered even maximum level, and Lanegan utters not a single word. I saw him with the Soulsavers a fortnight ago, and not a word then either.
Not that this hides any of the talent from these two. Both dressed in black and holding the microphone in a mirrored fashion, the pair's distinctive vocals were made for each other; Campbell's soft, velvety whispers and Lanegan's whisky and forty-a-day weathered tones. Some will say they look like Beauty and the Beast; Campbell like a sixties girl and Lanegan the dark and moody grunge guy (for the record I happen to think Lanegan is in no way a beast), but on stage look every bit the duo. Maybe it could be quirky and cool?
The majority of the set as you would imagine is made up of tracks from 'Ballard Of The Broken Seas'; featuring many tales of dark happenings; murders and lost love but all sang to some pretty jolly folk arrangements. Campbell has done well with these songs, keeping Lanegan in mind when writing by using a slight country feel in some tracks and the rest dark and suited to his unique voice. 'The False Husband' is a creepy tale of a man wanting to kill his wife, and there's more circus themed music with 'The Circus Is Leaving Town'. 'Deus Ibi Est' with just Jim McCullough on guitar, is the best example of Lanegan providing the deep storytelling vocals of the verse before Campbell springs in with the floaty chorus. Lanegan's own track 'Revolver' shows he should write more music these days. The audience love the covers, mainly about travelling men ('Ramblin' Man' by Hank Williams and 'Sand' by that other mismatched-but-perfect couple Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood). Campbell comments on the heat in the old building, but she has been rushing around on stage playing many instruments (cello, keyboard, tambourine, bells, kaos pad!). A good show all in all, though pretty quiet. Let's hope the inclusion of new songs tonight signal a new album in the near future.