Careful What You Say / Laid / Discover / Wave Hello / In The Darkness / Redneck / Love Hard / Sometimes / Falling Down / Dance Of The Bad Angel / Eh Mamma / Monkey God / Bone / Down To The Sea / Fall In Love With Me
Following another excellent support slot by Charles Manson, Tim’s “silent partner” on the forthcoming album Bone, Tim and the band took the stage at just before ten o’clock to an enthusiastic welcome from an excited crowd, which counted Scottish football legend Gordon Strachan amongst their number. The opening two tracks Words and Laid, whilst still not delivered with a full band, benefitted enormously from the addition of Lisa (Xan, Sid) on keyboards and in particular on vocal harmonies, a theme that would shine throughout the whole evening’s performance. Laid, in particular, was a success after last week’s competent but unrevealing performance.
Milo and Robin joined the other three for Discover which showed that they are still working on the songs, developing each one, not being happy with the previous performance, pushing the song further each time they’ve played it. This having been the third time I’ve heard these songs, it’s now enough to sit back and listen to the development as the band gel. Wave Hello is a glorious mess, it sounds as if it’s going to come crashing to a halt at any minute, Tim adding to the seeming chaos with keyboards of his own, but it’s pulled off as some Manchester band from the nineties did in their prime.
Into Darkness is possibly the highlight and sounds like it would be a great choice for a single (which automatically means it won’t be), a song about sexual obsession and an obsession with a girl on a train. Tim makes a scathing comment about band of the moment The Darkness at the end that goes down well with the crowd. Redneck, with its ambigious references to Auld Lang Syne, ice-cream, space dust (whatever happened to space dust? – showing my age a little) and “rama-rama” is laid-back, yet almost borders on a free jazz style. The backing vocals complement Tim beautifully.
Hard Love is probably the simplest of the new songs, yet one of the most effective with the verse dominated by discreet but stunning keyboards before a crashing drumbeat announcing the chorus and into a gorgeous vocal section with Lisa. Sometimes just about fails to reach the high standard of last week’s performance but still manages to remain fresh in its new piano-driven guise. The reception is rapturous for the last of the songs by the J-band this evening.
Falling Down Again is my least favourite of the new songs as it probably doesn’t quite afford the possibility of experimentation that some of the more up-tempo numbers do.
Booth and the Bad Angel album track Dance Of The Bad Angel is introduced into the set for the first time. The pace of the song picks up gradually to a stunning crescendo. Lee and Lisa’s vocal harmonies contrast stunningly with Tim’s. Tim’s spoken about vocal improvisation in the past, but with the new band he appears to be getting the opportunity to really try it out and it can be quite breathtaking when it comes off.
The set draws to a close with the three of the more up-tempo numbers in the set. Mama is under three minutes, includes both Tim and Lisa on keyboards and Tim’s vocals hollering through the middle with Milo’s drumming holding the whole song together as it careers towards the end.
Monkey God follows with the stream of consciousness ending where the band talk over the intro the song about random subjects, I’m not sure this works and just confuses the audience. The song crashes to a halt because of a hitch. Tim cracks a pun back at Lee that “I left James for this” to respond to Lee’s piss-taking throughout the set.
Bone and Down To The Sea appear to have made their claim to be the setclosers. Both have moved on greatly from their earlier incarnations from the ICA gig and the Dom Joly performance (of the latter) last year. Robin’s sax and the vocal harmonies bring Bone to a stirring climax whilst Down To The Sea has grown into a real thing of beauty from something that sounded distinctly run of the mill just a few months back.
Fall In Love With Me, with Lee and Lisa accompanying, closes the set. Sung with a passion and minimum background, the emotion of the feelings Tim’s expressing pour out of every line.
Another success, the development of the songs in the live environment is evident even though it’s only a week or so since the last show. The potential for improvisation is rife through many of the songs and where it’s done it’s a great success, keeping the sound fresh and utilising the talents of the whole band. The interaction is a joy to see after years of terse on-stage tension with James. Taking this out to bigger, standing venues and probably a less patient audience (how long before we get a demand for Sit Down?) will be the next challenge. The sound’s there to fill bigger venues, but whether there’s an audience there for improvised exciting fresh music made by people with a passion for their work and working with their bandmates when success seems to be guaranteed by a few singalong choruses, changing your name and lying about your age (28 eh Mr Kapranos?) and being flavour of the month with the eNMEy is going to be the big challenge.
Still the band and those of us who join the ride are going to have some great evenings finding out. Come to the shows with an open mind, forget Tim’s past and allow yourself to be convinced.