The Twilight Sad
St Gregory Orange open the evening, tonight as a three-piece. A notoriously difficult band to get the sound right for, tonight is pleasingly vocal heavy and the set focuses on the fullest sounding songs from their Midnight At The Sycamore Lounge album, as opposed to the stripped back acoustic and keys version from their last appearance with RM Hubbert. It sounds good, but there is a static element in the crowd and on stage, at odds with the wonderful and layered sounds we are all hearing. Their long awaited full band lineup is almost upon us, which should solve this problem, recreating the special chemistry evident on the records and representing the tracks and the band in a way that finally does them justice.
RM Hubbert returns to
after wowing us on his joint tour with Emma Pollock a few weeks back. As ever,
he is magical. It's the third time I've seen him this year and he just gets
better. His music is largely instrumental, just him and his acoustic guitar. A
couple of tracks have vocals which vary the set but it is the third element;
his 'banter', which adds so much more. To cheapen his stories and admissions
with such a tag is wrong of me, but it’s that frankness and heart on sleeve honesty
that astounds. Hubby’s is music of the soul, laid bare and it's impossible not
to love him, as much as he says 'cunt' and talks about death. The songs
themselves, delicate as they are, have more character and emotion than pretty
much any 'full' band you can think of. A brilliant, beautiful set.
The Twilight Sad are back in town after gaining loads of fans at June's Long Division. Like all great bands there's an ambiguity to what they are about. In a similar style to their countrymen Mogwai, they appear to combine gutsy, heartfelt, complex and arty rock with a down to earth, working class grittiness. That whole sentence is likley complete bollocks, but that's how it seems. Hubby does however confirm that his tour with Twilight Sad is certainly more rock and roll than his previous with Emma Pollock. "I'm knackered' he tells me 'and it's only the second date of the tour." I believe him; I had to load in their rider for Long Division...
Their second last album Forget The Night Ahead forged their now signature wall of sound approach which was messed with / expanded upon on the most recent No One Can Ever Know. There's a greater variety in the set than I previously recall, especially towards the end as bare bones, borderline acapella, brings a hush to the room. They command the stage, with supreme confidence in what they are doing. Frontman James Graham is the focus, without a doubt, though he doesn't exactly try and outdo his bandmates in the statuesqe stakes, more the way he is completely inhabiting the songs. Or, 'he's proper in to it man' as I'd more normally say. A cheer is raised by the announcement of I Became A Prostitute - still one of their best songs - which results in his reply "Don't cheer that, I really did."
It's hard to know if the crowd are enjoying the show. I'm sure they are, but it is difficult to know how to react at a Twilight Sad song. You can't groove along, or dance or do much but bop your head in enjoyment. The noise just hits you clean in the face, a gorgeous wave, like the joy on a dog's face as he sticks it out of the window on the way to the seaside. That's a widely inappropriate simile, but y'know, that's what it felt like. The sound is huge and for the first time ever, i can hear The Hop's already overloud PA straining it's limiters. You feel Twilight Sad could play through speakers the size of mountains and it still wouldn't be quite as loud as you feel it should be.
So: another faultless lineup, another under-attended gig. Once more
is predictably awesome and predictably ignored.
Words: Dean Freeman
Photography: John Jowett