Envy and Other Sins‘ Christmas gig at the Rainbow in Digbeth promised to be a good one, with outstanding support being provided by local artists The Heathers, Mr Bones & The Dreamers, and Tom Peel. The Rainbow, incidentally, has the dubious distinction of being the only venue in Birmingham where you can get rained on more inside than outside. A word to the wise: avoid the spot in front of the sound desk with the puddle.
Anyway, moving swiftly on. The night was started in great form by local solo performer Tom Peel, who managed to fill the room with his strong voice and quirkily charming songs. His opening song, I Love It In The Town Hall When You Give Me A Squeeze, was a high point for me — gorgeous. Sometimes I Want Bad Things To Happen (with hot ukelele action) is another complete winner. He has great stage presence, and most of all, that voice is pretty impressive, with clever phrasing and knowing lyrics. Tom’s CD is available from his website (also worth a look, it’s very funny and you can listen to his songs there) and although I couldn’t see any forthcoming dates there is a mailing list you can sign up for.
The second band of the evening were Mr Bones & The Dreamers, who are one of those bands who seem to get better every time you hear them. Tonight’s venue couldn’t have been more different from their support slot at the Wulfrun Hall on Monday, but you know what? Being sardined onto the stage (with seven band members they had twice as many people to squeeze on than everyone else) didn’t seem to phase them one bit. There were some wobbles with the sound tonight (more of that later), but it certainly wasn’t causing them any problems – from their bouncy opener Buckler’s Gown to their final song of the night, the aptly titled Time To Rest, this was a very strong set from a band whose confidence and enthusiasm is apparent and infectious. All in all another tight and impressive set from Mr B and The Dreamers. Making time to see them live is highly recommended; as I said before, they’re a band who are upping their game every time. Their new EP will be out early in 2009 – start making grabby hands and form a queue.
Third in the lineup tonight were The Heathers; new singer Rachel, at her first gig with the band, simultaneously managed to deal with PA issues (initially it wasn’t switched on as they started their set — enough to throw anyone off their stride) and tonsillitis (the girl’s obviously got nerves of steel). Maybe because of this, her vocals remained frustratingly low in the mix — at least from where we were over to one side, but it’s a small room — which, when you can tell that someone’s a great voice, is a real shame. HOWEVER. We cast these things aside and look at the good bits. The good bits were the strong, catchy songs (go forth to their MySpace for a listen, and for a CD if you’re feeling frisky), in particular This Copper Heart, September (with its great boy-girl vocal harmonies and bloody pounding drumming) and their final song, The Alpha Line. Great stuff. Rachel’s voice might have been a little drowned out tonight compared with some of the other singers but you know what – if that was what we get under less than ideal circumstances, there’s no complaints here. There are more shows lined up for the new year (again, keep an eye on their MySpace), and they’re well worth checking out.
Tonight’s headliners, Envy and Other Sins, played another blinding set. I hadn’t seen them play out live before and they were great. Opener Step Across, with its sharp, snappy guitars and bright vocal harmonies was a very good indication of how the rest of their set was going to be – polished, confident, and quite quite lovely. Envy and Other Sins have a big sound going for them, but at the same time balance it with moments of spare, elegant guitar phrasing, a solid rhythm section and some seriously good vocals. Other high points of the evening — the festive (but creepy) cover of White Christmas and apparently spontaneous synchronised audience dance routine (well, I think that’s what it was — there was coordinated arm-waving) aside – were Don’t Start Fires, with its delicately balanced guitars and vocals, York CafÃ©, and the catchy single, Highness. The final song of the night, Shipwrecked, with its gradual climb to a thunderous finish, was the perfect end to the set. Despite hunting through their website I can’t see any shows confirmed for the new year but if you haven’t seen them play yet, keeping an eye out for forthcoming dates is highly recommended. Their first CD, We Leave At Dawn, is available on iTunes.
So — Happy Christmas? Oh I think so.
Review – Gill Duckett
Photos – Adam Spall