17 November 2011

Review: The Shivers (with Randolph's Leap and Where We Lay Our Heads) Mono 8.11.11

Above: A rather dodgy, shaky photo of The Shivers taken and put through some mad filters to make it look sorta alternative and therefore acceptable to use on a review.

First on the bill tonight was Where We Lay Our Heads. WWLOH bring with them a rather delicate and heartfelt brand of folk pop. The shared male and female vocals remind me slightly of the quieter moments of Arcade Fire. Jef's voice compliments Wull's very well, particularly on Wondering About The Fall. Things are still a bit rough and scratched round the edges as if they've still to fully gel as a band but there's some beautiful melodies here. They're not far off being a fantastic live band at all and I'm looking forward to seeing where they are in a few months time.

Despite seeing Randolph's Leap twice before, this was the first time I've had the 'full experience'. The first time I saw them was in the 13th Note at AvPII, a few hours after being sent home ill from work. Illness necessitated that I leave during the first song in their set to go home and curl up in a corner with whisky. The second time was a stripped-back set at one of the Peenko Sessions in the Hidden Lane Tea Rooms – where I was permitted entry despite knocking a whole tray of cakes onto the ground the first time I was in that particular establishment. So tonight was first time seeing them with full (and now expanded) line-up. For twee indie-pop a la Belle & Sebastian, they're very robust sounding. The newly-incorporated brass section have really toughened up their their sound without diminishing in any way that fragility that existed previously. Counting Sheep sounds rockier than it does on record, and Undergod fills the room in a way I imagine the band never could have before. Perversely however, the real stand-out tracks are the more understated Please Don't Belong and Cassie O'Tone. There's something very loveable about Randolph's Leap live. It's like they give the whole room a big warm cuddle and tousle your hair before giving you all a balloon animal. Guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

Finally, it's The Shivers. I hadn't listened to them until Peenko himself let me know he was putting on this gig. They come from Queens, New York and have just recently been signed to Fence Records. In all honesty, I wasn't wholly convinced about them even after a few listens to the new album. Hearing them live however was an entirely different story. With just two members, Keith and Jo, they stripped back their rather extensive back catalogue to just guitar, keyboards and shared vocals. There's a nostalgic feel to their sound, like a modern and mellow take on Motown and 60s soul which sounds completely unlike any of their New York contemporaries. A remarkable chemistry exists between the two on stage which - accompanied with some highly amusing anecdotes and quips, as well as a hilarious and mildly operatic song about 'The Pain Zone' - is all very endearing. They genuinely look like they're loving it too. Set-opener Love Is In The Air is superb, with Keith showcasing an exceptional falsetto complimented perfectly by some of Jo's lovely choppy piano. The undoubted highlight of the set however is a ballad called L.I.E., from their 2004 album 'Charades'. Its fragile melancholy melts the audience into pure silence, testament to its restrained beauty. One can only hope they come back to these parts very soon. It would be nice to hear them as a full band but, as tonight demonstrates, music is sometimes at its most powerful when pulled back to the basics and little else.


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