On the eve of St. Valentine’s Day, the Hare & Hounds is a minging, sweaty fug rammed to sell-out capacity. And, as with all things H&H’s retro ethos, the air-con is, well, opening the door occasionally. Never mind, it’s an evening for true romance as David’s Lyre, guitar funk intro with ‘English Roses’.
A quintessentially English sound with crystal clarity chords shifts that just have to be cuddled and caressed by valve amp technology. Singer/founder Paul Dixon, with an exquisitely sculptured jaw line and haircut his Nan could be pleased with, has a singularly distinctive voice. His phrasing and diction, sense of timing and subtlety recalled, for this reviewer, shades of Jeff Buckley singing ‘Lilac Wine’ with nibbles of New Order as a side relish.
Most songs are compact, tight and crafted, dollops of synthpop new romanticism, and yes, it’s safe to come out of the retro closet and admit you still have a yearning for those gadfly days.
The band are damn fine musicians and the synth/samples, and possible it actually was a lyre, couldn’t see from the back, lent an esoteric tingle just like when Jason was vaporised up to Mt. Olympus to diss Zeus. Closing song, and praise heaven, another band dispensing with the contrived stage exit for the gratuitous hand-clap return encore, was the grandiose minor epic, ‘Tear Them Down’ a galloping, crescendoed delight that ended, almost, with Mr. Dixon thanking the punters for their generous support. Nice touch, clever stagecraft, with the final ‘Thank you’ before the heroic, climactic closing flourish.
Setlist: English Roses, Constellation, Heartbeat, These Trees, This I Know, In Arms, Tear Them Down.
Great things are deservedly happening for Chapel Club after their impressive support slot last year (see Joy Formidable review). Their debut album release, ‘Palace’ being well critiqued, must have been a significant factor in tonight’s sell out headline.
At almost ten o’clock precisely, darkness falls, moody synth atmospherics weave mysteriously and on the hour a carnival of lights, sound and action. And then almost immediately BANG! Oh dear. Apparently a bass drum mic exploded. Soon sorted and the band continue with ‘Surfacing’. This an altogether more vibrant, confident and stage owning dynamic. No pigeon hole for their sound more an invitation to explore the White Rabbit’s burrow into a wonderland of electro funk synth and indie-rock pop-tech to be getting on with.
Founder member, principal lead guitarist, Michael Hibbert, conjures etherial sound collages from his phalanx of effects pedals that reminds one of the glacial splendors of Sigour Ros amongst others. There’s possibly subtle tweaks of U2 in ‘White Knight Position’ and the twangy bass intro to ‘Blind’ had a me all a shiver for The Cure’s seminal lament ‘Friday’ but it soon found it’s own territory. Soothing broken hearts and dreams with celestial, romantic airs the band are continually finding more inventive and expansive ways of expression.
Singer, Lewis Bowman, a thoroughly engaging fellow, though slight in stature, commands with pose, poise and maturing vocal authority. I heard a bloke say with affection that he was reminded of Suede and I could see his point. Final connection from me would be to Prefab Sprout, Paddy McAloon’s heart caressing ‘enigmatic melancholia.’
With The Hare near to ecstatic, even closer to suffocating wild abandon, the band close with the wave-crashing appositely titled ‘The Shore’. I think 2011 is going to be a good year.
Setlist: Surfacing, White Knight Position, Blind, Roads, Fine Light, O Maybe, Bodies, Paper Thin, All The Eastern Girls, Five Trees, The Shore.
Review – John Kennedy
Photos – Richard Shakespeare