posted 10 May 2009, 12:28 by The Editor   [ updated 15 May 2009, 09:05 ]
Basement, City Screen, York - 5th May 2009

The media focus on police brutality and kettling after the G20 summit rather detracted from what was going to be the central debate on economic management. Whilst politicians in the corridors of power were vowing to put trillions of dollars into the banking system, anti-capitalist placards being waved outside were reminding us that we don't have to rely so much on material things. I would imagine this was a lesson that Luke Wyland , multi-instrumentalist and the core around which different musicians revolve in headliners Au, learnt tonight as repeatedly his transformer would blow and then, whilst he patched it together, electrocute him, leaving him without instruments for minutes at a time.

At the start of the night it seemed the problems would come from a different source; supports the!spoon?(and the) and Lapels played to different degrees of an empty room. They fully distinguished themselves in how they took to this task though. the!spoon?(and the) gave everything to their half hour set. It was not, however, enough, to make it enjoyable. A self-confessed "10 legged rackettroup contextualised by the dispariging muses of a welsh visonary", their set was the musical equivalent of this faux -intellectual and poorly spelt description. They sank rapidly, dragged down by lyrics full of excessive use of reference and amateur impressions of the sort of progressive rock that The Mars Volta do so, well inspiring many others to try, and fail. The Lapel's keyboardist had turned up later to the venue than the rest of the band as he hadn't realised they were playing tonight. It seemed like he was not the only one. Whilst their set was a definite step in the right direction, Lapels have played and will play much better gigs. Their playing was at all times proficient, but no-one apart from the singer seemed to put in the effort that make them such a hugely entertaining live act to see. As he left the stage the drummer gave a one-word review: "awkward". They certainly seemed uneasy handling the task of entertaining the walls.
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Au did not suffer from the same problem. Introducing themselves with a typically American enthusiasm Luke proclaimed how he happy he was to be there and how lucky he was to have us there, an enthusiasm that they plowed straight into their set. The opening track, whilst hardly a remarkable song, highlighted the inventiveness of the compositions that allowed Luke to build walls of sound with only drummer DanaValatka (of Jackie-O_Motherfucker) lending assistance. The manner in which various elements were looped through Luke's synth creating unusual effects was impressive to behold. The second track suggested more of the best of Au, with passages of crescendoing noise giving way abruptly to moments of pure pop melody. The few hardcore fans who had made it down lapped it up and the members of the other bands, who constituted the rest of the crowd, were getting more and more appreciative.

However, not far into the third song disaster struck. Luke's synth-centric set-up cut out, leaving Dana to come up with an impromptu drum fill. The quick work of Luke and the sound technician meant this was only a temporary problem, but this turned out to be a temporary solution. When the transformer blew again and again over the next couple of songs Dana's drum solos became longer, more imaginative and much more impressive. And they went down a storm. Not since the days of Keith Moon have drum solos been seen as a desirable part of alternative music, but each one was greeted by rapturous applause. When the set returned to normal the crowd were truly on side. Works in progress that were being road-tested for the first time this tour went down just as well as the highlights from their two releases and when Luke called for the crowd to shout along to a noisy vocal climax there was not a quiet lung in the room. Whilst some of the material repeated themes and lacked memorable elements, it still made for a truly enjoyable experience where, despite, or even thanks to, the failings of modern technology, an enjoyable gig was had by everyone present. The anti-capitalists would have been proud.

7 / 10

Jonny Livesley


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