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August 11, 2013 Music , , , , ,

Splendid Sidewinding

So aside from recently hosting a great sunday lunch at our place, I’ve also been pretty busy going to a few gigs so it’s time to dust off the musical side of LTBT.

Whilst Mrs LTLT and I used to make the annual trip up to Splendour in the Grass, we haven’t been up for a few years and now I sate my live music appetite with a healthy dose of sideshows in the weeks before and after. I wasn’t super pumped on the lineup this year, but still managed to line up 3 gigs in 4 days, all of which deserved a bit of review lovin’. So without any further ado’

James Blake, The Palais Theatre, 31st July 2013

Minimal & Powerful, a light show to match the music

Minimal & Powerful, a light show to match the music

It’s only been two years since James Blake released his epic debut record (plus a few EPs in 2010), but it feels like he’s been with us for much longer. The unbelievable maturity shown in his 2013 record, Overgrown, only furthers this feeling. More of a composer than a songwriter, it would be easy for his talent to outshine ability to engage with a live audience; creating the danger that his gigs are to be ‘admired’ rather than enjoyed.

Luckily, in the last two years he has also really tuned his live show. On his first tour he was fantastic, this time it was something  stronger. After a solid support from up-and-comer Oliver Tank, who is definitely worth a look, James and band came onto the grand old palais stage. I can’t remember what the first song was (one of his older pre-debut songs), but he then launched into the refrain from ‘I Never Learnt to Share’ to rapturous cheers, which were then repeated as he continued to layer and live record/loop his voice to create the incredible vocal harmonies in this song. It was a strong start, building into the song’s impressive crescendo as the huge sound shook the theatre (and we wondered whether old structures were tested against sub-bass…). Moving through the excellent ‘Overgrown’ and ‘To The Last’, his voice has gotten undeniably stronger over the past two years, and the old songs also fortified to fill bigger arenas – which was seen on a spirited version of ‘CYMK’.

A couple more songs went past before the epic ‘Lindesfarne I and II’ came out and floored everyone with it’s minimal, beautiful, torch-song power. Well as minimal as you can be when you’re singing into a vocoder that changes the pitch of your voice to match the notes you’re playing on a keyboard. From there, ‘Limit to Your Love’ blew the place to shreds but it was main set closer ‘Retrograde’ that really showcased everything that was brilliant about the performance and his songwriting. It was one of those moments that don’t come along all that often. The power of the ‘Suddenly I’m Hip’ section of the song sending the crowd to rapture with its power and intensity. A quick break and then finishing with ‘The Wilhelm Scream’ and a solo number we left the theatre charmed and spellbound.

Jagwar Ma, The Corner Hotel, 1st August 2013

2013 ‘It’ band Jagwar Ma presented an offer not to be refused, with tickets to their show coming on sale for a very attractive $20 and selling out unsurprisingly quickly. After a quick drink at Bar Economico (the old Der Raum space reinvented as a rum-focussed dive bar where a cock fight wouldn’t be out of place) and a rather epic meal at Meatmother we hit the Corner to an incredibly empty room for diminutive beatmaker Guerre, who slowly won us over with his looping, shifting hard-to-categorise electronica. Some great inter-band DJ warm up action before the noel-gallagher fancied sydneysiders took the stage and started the beats with some sort of radio tuner device before dropping into album openers ‘What Love’ and ‘Uncertainty’. It’s heady, sweaty stuff. Music not to be thought about too much but you know it’d do some serious damage on Friday night at Meredith.

The thin metal necklace over the t-shirt shows they're living the madchester thing...

The thin metal necklace over the t-shirt shows they’re taking fashion cues from madchester too…

Over the next hour they pumped through the debut album, with a healthy amount of live song extension as we lost ourselves to the beats. ‘The Throw’ and ‘Man I need’ were epic face melting highlights. My mate described them as being half way between Primal Scream and the Yardbirds, an apt description for the unmistakably madchester beats interspersed with a vintage 60s guitar feel. The songs pulsed and shuddered, the sort of show where you grin from go to woe. Great album, great live performance, would love to go see them when I didn’t have to go to work the next day…

Of Monsters & Men, Palais Theatre, 3rd August 2013

Returning to the Palais for icelandic sensations ‘Of Monsters & Men’ we arrived late after dinner just in time to catch the main act. It’s hard to understate the popularity of this band. At Laneway I managed to glimpse the top of the lead singer’s hat over the top of the crowd, and nothing else! Opening with ‘Dirty Paws’ from behind a sheet which dropped in time for the chorus they went about their business as a happier Arcade Fire, working through the multitude of  ‘hits’ from their debut record to rapturous applause from the full house.

Up until half way I wasn’t totally sold on the show (I think I was in the minority here though). There was something that didn’t quite gel about how they worked together on stage and a bit too much asking the crowd to clap along etc (a bit more focus on being entertaining would make people clap…). I was mostly focussing on the guitarist on the side of stage, who was bulking out the sound with this epic noise-rock reverb-drenched sound that would have been more in place in Sigur Ros or Sonic Youth than OMAM. It added a huge amount to the sound and I was kind of hoping he’d break into a  15 minute feedback solo.. but my concentration was ripped back when they got into ‘King and Lionheart’. Something gelled in how they moved together on stage and all of a sudden they were an incredible, cohesive unit. It only got better from there with an unreleased tune and the set highlight, a roaring, powerful version of ‘Lakehouse’ that ended with confetti cannons and a deafening cheer from the crowd. Coming out of the cheer into Little Talks it’s fair to say they knew how to get the mileage out of their big tunes.

Confetti Cannons = Guaranteed Screaming

Confetti Cannons = Guaranteed Screaming

Ending with a Yeah Yeah Yeahs cover and then one of their own (while ‘snow’ fell from the ceiling) they used all of their tricks to put on a show that would have won over all the non-believers.

Well that’s it for the Splendour sideshows, I’ve got a tonne of tastings to do in the next months so there’ll be many a new wine coming to LTLT in the future,

Peter