The Futureheads + The Cornshed Sisters @ Birmingham Glee Club – 10th April 2012

I arrived at the Glee Club on Tuesday night feeling a little bit apprehensive. It’s been a while since I’ve listened to The Futureheads, bar the brushing up i’d been doing prior to the gig, and I was only ever really aware of the singles then to be honest. Amongst all the posing indie bands that seemingly cropped up en masse at the start of the millenium, I thought they seemed decent, and different enough to take note of. Fairly nerdy-looking, a fair share of bonkers guitar lines and the strong presence of four part harmonies all lead them to stand out for the better, so I was happy, though embarassingly unaware, that they were still going when I read about the gig.

Stripped down to an acoustic setup and heavily supporting their brand new, entirely acapella album, ‘Rant,’ it was clearly going to be a reasonably civilised evening, especially considering the venue’s seated arrangement which normally plays host to stand-up comics. It was very hot too and I was immediately, and deeply, upset about not having a chair; until two minutes later when we were comfortably seated and my girlfriend told me to stop f***ing moaning. Time came to settle in, though I was dubious about tonight’s support, named The Cornshed Sisters, getting me too excited the minute I read their name to be honest. Shallow, yeah, but it wasn’t an unjustified assumption.

Soooo hard to be mean as they were freaking adorable, and could all really sing, but this kind of music must come from another planet or something. And it weren’t space-rock. Harmonies featured prominently, with the music swaying from traditional folk songs to more upbeat (and even more strange) dittys about gravy and what seemed to be songs about the life of a 1940’s housewife. As I said, the vocals were solid, but the lyrics were dubious and confusing and I just couldn’t, for the life of me, work out how somebody possibly gets into this kind of music in the first place. Not meant to be insulting, that was just the prevailing thought I couldn’t shake. Reviews are only opinions though, and the internet seems to like the Cornshed Sisters quite a bit, so maybe open your ears up to some gravy-based harmonic madness and ignore this entirely. (Best Band Fact: Marie du Santiago from the band was a member of Lauren Laverne’s mid-90’s crap-o-rama indie outfit, Kenickie. Ace).

Following a short break, The Futureheads arrived and launched straight into a slew of new songs before touching their instruments. No messing. Any fears concerning tonight’s entertainment value slink away sheepishly during the opening number, and don’t get the chance to sneak back in. The Futureheads are well good at this acapella business, like it or not, and along with some slightly calmer, strummed renditions of older songs, the set is really good. Old poptastic favourites like ‘Decent Days and Nights,’ ‘Carnival Kids,’ and, ‘The Beginning of the Twist,’ all sit well alongside the gentle, soulful new material, with some inspired cover versions also getting the all-vocal treatment.

The first to rear its head was a version of Kelis’ Acapella. The performance of this song in a, you guessed it, acapella style on Radio 1’s Live Lounge some years back was apparently the inspiration to record an entire record stripped of everything but their considerable vocal talent. Black Eyed Peas and Sparks both get the treatment later in the night, with the latter’s Number One Song in Heaven a real highlight. By this point the Cornshed Sisters had joined the boys onstage for some extra zing, and stayed for several numbers including a folk song pulled straight from the finale of The Wicker Man; not a cover version you can claim to see too often.

The Futureheads really succeeded at the Glee Club, their brave new direction and the set which accompanies definitely getting a thumbs-up from the crowd. They are also extremely funny. I didn’t want to base too much of my appraisal on their humorous banter but it really was a big part of the whole night. Lots of teasing, dicking around and serving up impromptu Warren G-based raps between songs is fine by me, and it did help that everyone knew they weren’t taking this ever-so-slightly daft music too seriously. Funny band at the Glee Club – it’s a win!

Review – Jake Dowding

Photos – Alex Dean

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