It’s easy to get carried away in the here and now, especially with music. Sometimes you have the feeling that the stars have aligned and that the gods of music have stricken down on you with the full weight of their hammer with some righteous intent. Sometimes, you awake to reality the next morning and realise that the band you witnessed the night before were just the Emperors new clothes. You were so carried along with the moment that you pushed to the back the owner of the sole voice in the crowd that pointed and said “No, they ain’t as good as you think!”.
And then again….
To open tonight’s triple bill is Unorthodox Coolock (Craig Doyle), a spoken word poet. The venue has a decent early turnout who appreciate the earnest delivery and listen carefully. There is no background hum of chatter. When he talks of losing a friend to suicide, many in the room obviously share a similar experience and understanding. His 30-minute set is excellent, heartfelt, thought provoking and interesting.
Tonight’s main support Egyptian Blue are an occasionally angular sounding post-post-punk act (it’s time we moved on a little and left the post-punk tag to GOF and Magazine). I say occasionally angular because there is much more to them than just the usual post-punk moves. They hit the stage and proceed to race straight towards us and an imminent fall off the edge of the stage, metaphorically speaking, but never quite do launch into the crowd. By this, I mean that the four to the floor drumming and unsubtle pounding serves to propel the music straight at you whilst the guitars and bass swerve and interplay in front. Always pushing on towards us, toying with us.
They are don’t say much between songs and this allows the music to keep coming, threatening but never quite landing a knockout blow. They look good, sound good and are a thoroughly good support. A companion on the evening, BrumLive reviewer, Rich Jefferson spotted the reference point that I was searching for…. Futureheads. Yup!
Last year I witnessed, as a speculative reviewer, The Murder Capital at The Sunflower Lounge and spent the rest of the year telling anyone who’d listen how good this band were. One track on Spotify was for some time the aural amuse bouche that promised a feast. When it finally dropped, the album captured the imagination of everyone I know who heard it. The gig late last year at the Castle and Falcon seemed to cement them in the hearts and minds of many of the savvy gig-goer around these parts.
Tonight, the full stage plain white back drop accentuates the look and style of the band. They hit the stage prowling like pugilists, shadow boxing their opponents, silhouetted against the white as they wait for vocalist James McGovern to take centre stage. Once assembled, we are off and flying.
The lighting drenches the stage in reds, blues and purples which leaves the band oozing warmth and standing out as heavily coloured silhouettes against the backdrop as they open with the staccato, rhythmical vocals of “More Is Less”. The repeated angry tightening and uncoiling of this and the following “For Everything” is a powerful start and a masterclass in exactly how to control the emotions of the listener.
The casual bystander might be forgiven for thinking that the band and especially James are arrogant and distant, but this would be far from the truth. Knowing the subject matter of the album and the focus of the songs it would be hard for a band not to appear distant. As for any arrogance this would be easily dispelled and the feeling of the audience and the band being on equal footing is there. At this point in their career it feels as though the whole event is a community of the emotionally likeminded. As they get bigger, I can’t help worrying that that will dissolve away.
The atmospheric “Slowdance I” and “II” showcase a band that understands that the spaces that they give each other make for a powerful sound. In art terms it is called negative space and is as important if not more so that the constant flailing. Each member of the band offers distinctive parts, and nobody is hidden in the sound. The controlled feedback never drowns out the other guitar and the strong bass lines are distinct from the musically percussive drumming of Diarmuid Brennan whose style recalls Thomas Wydler of The Bad Seeds. In fact, the later song “Love, Love, Love” leaves me feeling that there is a big piece of late Birthday Party / early Bad Seeds in there somewhere.
Having read suggestions, in one of the broadsheet reviews, that their stage moves are a little contrived, I offer this opinion… they know what they are doing stagecraft wise and, match fit and tight as they most certainly are, as they approach the end of a long tour, to me it looks anything but contrived. This band have honesty written all over them and that, you cannot fake.
We all know how much the noise of chitter chatter can take away from a performance. This sold out audience gave full respect and reverential silence to the beautiful and gentle “On Twisted Ground”. It’s a stunning song on record but live it is an amazing breathless and heart wrenching paean to what I believe is a lost friend of the band.
Gloomy and morose these guys are not though, and banter with the crowd in the second half shows them to be down to earth and funny.
There is, as usual, no encore to finish the shortish set. “It’s your last chance to dance” James tells the audience seconds before they play us out with “Feelings Fade” and he is carried over the heads of the audience, front to back and returned to the stage as he sings.
The sell-out gig tonight can leave no doubt, for anyone there, that they are one of the best live bands around. Sadly, we will not see them in such intimate venues again, but that is nothing more than they deserve.
Sometimes the hammer of the Gods hits hard and bloody well wakes you up… they got me at the Sunflower Lounge and the gig tonight leaves me in no doubt, and I stand by every word in my previous review. The Murder Capital are the undoubtedly the best live act I have ever seen.
More Is Less
On Twisted Ground
Green and Blue
Love, Love, Love
Don’t Cling to Life
Reviewer: Mark Veitch, Words on Unorthodox Coolock by Stephanie Colledge
Photographer: Stephanie Colledge