Tag Archives: Islington Assembly Hall

Erlend Øye – Islington Assembly Hall, London 03/04/14

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FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE LINE OF BEST FIT 

The de rigueur hipster beards and black rim specs are present and correct, but there’s a more eclectic bunch than usual gathered in Islington to welcome Norwegian kook-master Erlend Øye: lagered up 20-somethings, doting white-haired couples and, perhaps the highlight, a svelte and be-lycra’d cyclist, helmet under arm, glass of juice in hand. The mix is testament to Øye’s broad-based appeal. Through his work with the Kings of Convenience and the Whitest Boy Alive he has garnered a reputation as a songwriter par excellence and a performer of repute. And while most will have come tonight on the strength of previous records, it’s rare to see such an enthusiastic response for a set composed mainly of new, unheard songs.

Øye has come to perform tracks from his forthcoming record Legao, his first solo outing in more than a decade. He’s joined by the Icelandic Ziggy on guitar and keys, and Victor, a Finn who plays woodwind. The stripped-back accompaniment lends an earthy feel to proceedings. The flute whirls whimsically around in the foreground of Øye’s vocals, riffing and melodious. The sound is light and the songs are simple. In short, it’s not a million miles away from a Kings of Convenience record, which is pleasing for most.

The breezy sound of the early tracks is in danger of being swallowed up by the cavernous, sold-out venue, revellers at the back content to chatter their way through the opening gambits, much to the consternation of those around them (says one loudly, as a flute solo takes off: “I used to play the flute at school.” Response, from a few rows back: “Nobody cares, shut the fuck up!”). But as the show goes on, Øye’s wit wins through. His patter, as with his lyrics, can be dorky and clunky but incredibly disarming. “Who do you report to?” he sings, on the Jens Lekman-esque track of the same name. “It’s warm up here too… thank god I’m standing next to some cool people,” he says, between songs.

The new material is broken up by a couple of reggae tracks sung by Ziggy (it’s fascinating to hear a genre often associated with monosyllabic choruses tackled in the sesquipedalian Icelandic tongue) and a couple of covers – a gorgeous, finger-picked rendition of Big Star’s “Thirteen” and “New For You” by “unknown” California band the Moore Brothers – before Øye takes the mic to hold court with a Q&A. “Ask me about life: I know a lot, I’m 38,” he says before fielding questions on Italian cheese and his advice on a happy life (live in Italy).

The pace picks up towards the end: the crowd is nods in unison to The Whitest Boy Alive cuts “Upside Down” and “Golden Cage”, while the chorus of “La Prima Estate” is bellowed back at him. The abiding impression is, though, that the music is just an element of an Erlend Øye gig. With his dad dancing, effervescent smile, self-governing barnet and oddball sense of humour, tonight is as much about the spectacle as anything else.

Photo by Sara Amroussi-Gilissen.

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From the archive: Why? – Islington Assembly Hall, London 09/05/13

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FIRST PUBLISHED ON 15 MAY 2013 IN THE LINE OF BEST FIT

The gubernaorial surrounds of Islington Assembly Hall seem slightly at odds with the fluorescent schtick of Doseone – he of Themselves, 13 and God and cLOUDDEAD fame. And for about 10 minutes, an air of bemusement envelopes the early revelers; or perhaps they’re simply hypnotised by his garb (neon-pink t-shirt, big-buckled ‘I Love Haters’-adorned belt and flashy old school hip hop jacket).

The music’s fittingly kaleidoscopic too. His high-pitched squall, laid over disjointed, funk-tinged beats, sits somewhere between Prince and Connan Mockasin. The set is unhinged and fragmented but there’s something mesmeric about watching a man swig from a half-bottle of bourbon on stage. “I rap, too,” he helpfully informs the uninitiated before launching into a series of blistering, propeller-tongued rhymes and leaving to a hearty, if slightly befuddled, round of applause.

The contrast with Anticon stable-mates Why?’s performance could hardly be starker. Yoni Wolf has brought his full quintet on tour and the unit is tight, the set polished and slick. Where Dose was tanking drams of whiskey, Wolf sips from a bottle of mineral water (a tickle in his throat sees him reset the band once or twice). And no matter how many times you spin his records, it’s still always something of a surprise to hear the expletives fall from Wolf’s mouth in the flesh. His slight stature, polite, slightly-reserved stage manner and tame interaction with his audience and band is somewhat incongruous with some of his more potty-mouthed, vitriolic lyrical content.

The songs from Elephant Eyelash and Alopecia were always going to be crowd-pleasers – and so it pans out. ‘Waterfalls’ from the former kicks the set off nicely and Yoni holds the mic aloft triumphantly, as the crowd bellows back the chorus of ‘Good Friday’, not a “disinterested bitch” in the house. The stellar ‘January Twenty Something’ from the sometimes forgotten Eskimo Snow acts as something of a bridge, as Why? launch into a series of cuts from last year’s underrated (at least in some, influential quarters) Mumps, Etc.

One of the most interesting elements of the evening is witnessing the deployment of the band’s newest work. It is arguably Yoni Wolf at his most narcissistic – but as with all of his lyrics, you get the feeling that in the Denton, Texas studio in which it was recorded, there was at least one tongue boring a sizeable hole in a Wolf’s cheek. The band chooses well: the one-two-three of ‘Waterlines’, ‘Strawberries’ and ‘Jonathan’s Hope’ are the record’s strongest and are well-received – but by the time they’re finished, the crowd is baying for old blood.

They get it in the form of ‘These Few Presidents’, ‘Yo Yo Bye Bye’ and ‘The Hollows’. The latter in particular shows Why? and Yoni Wolf at their best: the flicked, bassy riff, the ghostly harmonies, the nasally delivered, borderline slapstick lyrics (“I spent the last six months hiding behind a moustache”) and the big, singalong chorus. The song prompts the first and only real surge from the audience – whose slight reservation is perhaps a reflection of that of the band itself. But musically, the evening’s performance can’t be faulted.

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From the archive: Meursault – Islington Assembly Hall, London 06/11/12

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Photograph by Sonny Malhotra from The Brixton Windmill, 2011.

FIRST PUBLISHED ON 12 NOVEMBER 2012 IN THE LINE OF BEST FIT 

Much like the cup with the cracked handle in his denigration of “terrible town planning” ‘Love in the Time of Ecstasy’, the appeal of opening act Withered Hand – aka Dan Willson – is in his imperfections. And so it plays out in front of a slowly swelling, partisan crowd in the gorgeous Islington Assembly Hall tonight. The parts – his beaten up guitar, gently cracking voice and slightly incoherent preambles – all add to a captivating sum in this stripped back acoustic warm-up.

He’s joined initially by Malcolm Benzie (Woodpigeon) on mandolin, with Rob St John adding harmonium to the ranks for the second half. The opening flurry of new tracks is soothingly pleasant: both ‘Love Over Desire’ and ‘Anyone’s Guess’ suggest a more countrified Withered Hand than we’ve yet been witness to. Things really take off when the trio (with Benzie swapping his mandolin for a fiddle) tackle some of the standout tracks from Willson’s debut, Good News.

In contrast, Rob St John, accompanied by a veritable who’s who of Edinburgh’s music scene, couldn’t be starker. Last year’s Weald was measured, fragile and, outside a few circles, criminally overlooked. The deliberation is apparent on stage too, even if the songs take on a whole new vibrancy with the backing of a full band. Every note, distortion and lunge of his baritone Lancastrian voice, seems to be in its right place. A searing guitar solo on the tail-end of the excellent ‘Sargasso Sea’ silences even the most persistent chatterers at the back. St John saves the most poignant moment for last. A rousing, heartfelt version of the ever-emotional ‘Shallow Brown’ dedicated to a recently passed friend steals the show.

Depending at which stage of Meursault’s career you’ve caught them live, you could have been greeted by anywhere between one and 20 members. Tonight’s cast comes in at 11, including all the evening’s previous performers (bar Withered Hand) and the Pumpkin Seeds string section. Given the grandiosity of the occasion, it seems lazy – almost clichéd – to start with the same point that every other review of Meursault has ever started out with. But, y’know, it’s kind of unavoidable.

Even among the maelstrom of strings, guitar, keys, harmonium and Neil Pennycook’s voice rises with towering bellicosity. Meursault are a band known for their punishing touring schedule and it seems astonishing that he can summon the same stupefying volume and emotion from his larynx every time he opens his mouth.

The set lifts predominantly from this year’s stellar Something for the Weakened and as befits the occasion, the band is bang on form. The strings are, naturally, at their most effective during the quieter numbers – and it’s a shame that during the more rollicking numbers (of which there are many), they’re not higher in the mix. It’s a small gripe though. For there’s a real celebratory mood on show tonight, one that’s hard not to get caught up in. ‘Thumb’ is gently rousing. ‘Settling’ – one of the tracks of 2012 – is delivered with startling aplomb. The folky ‘Untitled’ is a welcome change of pace on record, and so it proves in the flesh.

‘Mamie’, a song about Pennycook’s grandmother, has the same impact as ‘Shallow Brown’ had for St John earlier in the evening. A sombre account of someone descending further into old age, it has the frontman hunkered down, mike in hand. He seems exhausted, spent and as Meursault leave the stage, there’s the sense that this song, that this entire show has been the culmination of something special. 2012 has been a fine year for Meursault and tonight, the band and their extended musical family revels in it.

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