Saturday, 31 May 2008

The Long Dead Sevens/Maelstrom @ The Band Stand, Hanley. May 30th.

Review by Steve Dean

Photo by Simon Bamford

Having waxed wide-eyed and lyrical about the The Long Dead Seven’s album ‘The White Waltz and other Stories’, I had been looking forward to seeing them live ever since and this Friday, spotting them billed at The Band Stand, I grabbed the opportunity. My first impression as they took the stage was that two of the members, guitarist/piano Paul J Rodgers and dark-toned vocalist Nick Cliff, have a very distinct stage image, whereas bassist, banjo player and steel slide–guitarist Ian Turner has virtually none. The other members of the 6-piece ensemble being somewhere in between. Beginning with ‘God’s Own Movie’, it became apparent as they worked through a selection of songs from the album, that it was not going to be an easy task to recreate the sheer polish of the recording’s production live. At times, a suitably dramatic atmosphere was conjured, but too often the illusion was spoiled by Ian Turner’s electrical clicks and bangs as he fiddled with the plugs on his instruments. This happened so often, I began to wonder if it was some misguided part of the production. He appeared, at times, almost separate from the band; his perceivable attitude apparently as if he were playing from the stage wings, so to speak. I recommend, at least, that he purchase some new guitar leads without delay. As a listener, I would suggest that the running order of the undeniably fine songs be re-thought; as by the time the first notes of more up-tempo sixth composition ‘Seven Levels’ were reached, the rolling arpeggio piano chords of number after number were wearing the audience’s number a little thin. The overall musicianship, including some lovely violin from Jenny Hames, was very good, although marginally unsteady arrangement-wise in places, but that can be forgiven as it will take a few gigs to fine tune their performance anyway. ‘Entertaining’ is a fitting last word.

Maelstrom are something completely different. I’ve seen lots of rock bands, but never one with a drum machine. Not one that takes itself seriously anyway. The contraption actually supplys some very beefy beats, but without the emotive vibes of a real person hitting the skins, something is somehow lost, no matter how clever the mechanical drumming may sound technically. Aside of the machine, Maelstrom are singer/guitarist Joe Cummings, guitarist Jon Cummings and bassist Harry Dagger. Song-wise, they have some very good ideas, although they can sound repetitive to the unfamiliar ear. Having said that though, ‘Whirlpool’ and ‘Sleepers’ are great tunes. They seem to have a fairly nonchalant stage attitude and it has to be said that the endings of some of their tracks could do with stronger definition. Lost applause is often because the audience is not sure if the song is over or not if one member keeps hitting notes after the song has finished. It is surprising how many bands made this simple mistake. When the song is over – shut up – you’ll get miles better appreciation. The incessant beats to their robustly melodic compositions put me in mind of 80s band The Cult in places and the strongest part of the band is easily Joe’s voice. Although slightly shaky towards the ends of the notes from time to time, there is real power and timbre in her vocals and with the right direction and maybe voice training, could easily shift up a few gears in potential for success.

In this age of half-hour sets, Maelstrom showed they’d been around a time by the length of their 12-song playlist. Not bad at all.

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