The good news is that James Graham remains an intense man. Rumours of the death of the sound and fury that put The Twilight Sad on the map over the last few years were proved to be wildly exaggerated tonight. The Front-man embodied all of that in a display of sheer raw emotion that threatened to overwhelm even him at the end.
Front-man may not be the right term. There is little showmanship in the traditional sense in the band’s performances but all the trade marks are there. James prowls around an area of the stage that is obviously his territory, seemingly surrendered to him by the rest of the band. His eyes are closed for much of the time as he negotiates his way through the darkness and misery of their songs. He often stands side-on to the audience arms raised as if he is looking to fend off some attack, screaming almost to himself in frustration as the guitar and keyboards build up to the familiar wall of sound, almost obliterating the vocals.
All of this was on show tonight and it was good to see and hear. A lot had been made of a change of direction for the band, and one that maybe threatened to dilute the power of the live performance. Certainly the new album No One Can Ever Know is different from what has gone before, with keyboards more prominent and a more stark, almost icy feel to the songs. But if any neutrals in the audience were hearing the band for the first time they would have had little chance of telling the difference.
As usual the band seemed quite nervous at first, full of self- deprecation: “we’re from Scotland, hence the shite accents”. It didn’t last as all the factors that should keep a band separate from the crowd, the intensity, the inward looking almost self obsessed approach, pulled the audience in. It’s a weird feeling but at the front of the stage you get quickly enveloped in James’ own emotional world.
The Twilight Sad, like a few other bands, can do detached and self- absorbed because that is where their music takes them. Birmingham’s Decades on the other hand seemed to be looking to overplay the disinterested card and as a result their Interpol-crossed -with-Editors sounds fell on equally disinterested ears. The Hare and Hounds is not that big a venue but there was a yawning gulf between band and audience. I quite liked them – but I was there to listen!
Let’s Wrestle were a different prospect entirely. The word idiosyncratic only goes part of the way to describe this band. They don’t look like they sound, they don’t look like a band, more like a bunch of students on a protest march, and they don’t sound like they do on their records. Recorded they are a cross between garage and folk band but live there was more of a sixties, almost psychedelic feel to some of the songs; maybe it was the vocals that made the difference.
Because the whole package was somewhat incongruous they made the connection and people were much more interested. They have some good tunes and have the happy knack of being able to inject humour with clever lyrics without coming over as corny. For all that their most impressive song is the single from last year In Dreams Part II, a much more straightforward song.
All of this seemed lightweight compared to the main event. That Summer, At Home I Had Become The Invisible Boy is already, and to my mind, a classic song. The first single from the Twilight Sad in 2007 threatened to be almost too good at the time. How on earth could they follow that?
Coming three songs into the set tonight this tale of family strife, suspicion and alienation saw them hit their straps with James almost manic, the sweat mixing with tears in his eyes as he was screaming “ they’re sitting around the table , and they’re talking behind your back!”
But like I said this approach can take it’s toll. After thanking the audience for coming to see the band, two false starts to At The Burnside saw James back in reality and almost panicking as he thought he had forgotten the words, agitated, wild-eyed and asking the audience if anyone could find them on their iphones.
I suppose if you perform on the edge then you can slip off, but just as quickly he was back into his world and having started again the song was faultless as well as marvellous. The set ended with him looking oblivious to the fact that one by one his fellow band members had quit the stage leaving him in the spotlight with a backdrop of distorted effects.
After the current collection UK appearances the band are once again off to the USA. After five years I hope that their music and the new album finds a much wider audience because they deserve to be huge.
Review – Ian Gelling
Photo – Steph Colledge
Kill It In The Morning
That Summer, At Home I Had Become The Invisible Boy
I Became a Prostitute
Cold Days From The Birdhouse
And She Would Darken the Memory
At The Burnside