Friday, 29 January 2010

Midlake @ The Sugarmill January 25th 2010

Review and Photograph by Simon Bamford

Midlake are in Hanley tonight to promote their new album “The Courage of Others”. The ‘Mill is pretty much full, it's a good turn out. There’s a mix of ages but the balance leans to a more mature audience. I am unfamiliar with most of their material, but sometimes, in my experience this is the best way to first hear a band live. The Texan band take to the stage with something missing, a band member, he appears seconds later and joins his buddies. Unfortunately as they progress through their set it feels to me as if there’s still something missing. We are treated to skillfull musicianship, rich harmonies, triple flute arrangements and even the odd bit of jovial banter.

There are influences in their sound ranging from Southern American rock and country, through Celtic to British folk. They are a good band no doubt, but for me they never quite hit the spot. I want to like the band more than I do tonight, it just seems to lack a certain sparkle. They peaked with the instantly recognisable number Roscoe and finished by not leaving the stage to do their encore. They simply explained their intention. The problem was for me that their seemed to be nothing memorable in between these points of reference; perhaps I'm the only person to feel, this or at least in a minority. I certainly enjoyed the gig but the band seemed tired, possibly from touring. Maybe I'm missing the point and that’s what Midlake's music’s all about.

All that said, it was a robust performance and enjoyable enough. Early in the set I ventured to the front to get a photo. There was a large semi-circle of free floor space in front of Singer Tim Smith. Are the band so unapprochable? I ask myself. Tonight I always felt there was a certain unbridgable gap.



Sunday, 24 January 2010

Giro Junkie @ The Old Brown Jug 20th January 2010

Review by Charlotte Lunt

Photo by Leo Mazzocchio

Having seen Chris Moralee and his band in several guises over the last year, it appears that they have settled on being a 3 piece. With the less conventional line up of semi acoustic and electric guitar and djembe they appear to have found the balance of sound and structure.

Opening with his 2009 single Chris and Band (Kara and Kris) combined close harmonies with fragile emotional lyrics, setting the scene for a emotive set. Building on this they delivered a thought through cover of Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire” which they had thoroughly made their own.

By layering simple structure and building in intensity, the group arrive at a more organically complex sound, and through the sharing of lead vocals give an auditory as well visual symmetry. Closing with an ironically self described “depressive number” which again showcased the harmonies and propensity of the band to emphasise central themes through repetition of lyrics and increasing volume, they finally lost themselves in the trance like nature of their songs, before waiting for the songs to reach the end of its journey.

One of the difficulties of playing in pub venues is that the audience can have the tendency to regard the performers as a jukebox , however Chris demanded attention which was revealed by the audiences gathering cross legged on the floor in front of the stage.

Giro Junkie stepped up to the stage in his first role as headline, which for my money has been a long time coming. Kicking off with his eponymous track, recounting the tale of a man on the dole dealing with the monotony of his life, Rich has developed this song over time to include a number of jazz breaks in it which take the song to a a darker place, almost as if giving us a subliminal insight into the mind of the subject.

Giving a very physical performance, Rich used every inch of the stage embodying the frustration he appears to feel with the characters in his songs. Continuing to juxtapose some traditional folk hybrid with heavily jazz influenced breaks he stormed through two more tracks, revealing the infrastructure of the songs and showing how the tracks have developed over time. In “Feeling not fearing” a decidedly grungier sounding track, Rich has tried to encapsulate the process and frustration of trying to write a song that never reached fruition.

With a generous amount of banter with the audience who had come out in force to support him, Giro Junkie’s performance is more than a mixture of music and story-telling, his take on the ‘man in the street’ provides social commentary that is particularly pertinent to this venue. Definitely an act to look out for.


Giro Junkie

Chris Morallee