So, to the Astoria for (ashamedly) my first live show of the year. 2008 has kicked off to some promising new music (Black Mountain, Sons & Daughters, Blood Red Shoes) and also some disappointments (I’m looking at you Hot Chip), so it was going to be interesting what two of 2007’s highlights could offer up. These NME bashes are always a bit of a strange coming-together of acts, my first one back in 2002 saw one of the first London appearances of the Futureheads backing I Am Kloot and The Cooper Temple Clause. The Futureheads were awful. I Am Kloot and TCTC were amazing. Using this logic we decided to miss Vincent Vincent and The Villains, although I’m sure I caught them at the first Insomniac’s Ball and didn’t rate them.
Maps had created one of the most accomplished debut albums of 2007 with the excellent We Can Create, and having conspired to miss them at Reading was looking forward to finally catching them live. James Chapman and his live band had some way to go to recreate the intricate soundscapes of the record in a live setting, fielding an array of keyboards and electronic boxes to this end. The performance didn’t disappoint, the band launching straight in with album opener So Low, So High and continuing with a set drawing solely from his Mercury-nominated debut. The highlight, as with the LP, is the stomping It Will Find You, robbed of it’s scattered electronics ending yet still powerful, with the guitars and keys soaring and spiralling calling to mind My Bloody Valentine or Spritualized.
Richard Hawley, also Mercury-nominated, came to the velvet curtain backed stage oozing a 50s retro-style, replete with slicked back hair and sharp suit, band attired to match. A strange one this, a magazine (nay, comic) seemingly fixated on seeking the ‘new’ without care for quality, hosting a gig headed by a performer from without their demographic, playing music firmly rooted in tradition four decades past. Credit, then, to both NME for recognising quality beyond the age of 21, and to Hawley for taking it on with such gusto.
The air around the audience befitted the boudoir-style of the stage, couples in arms expectant of the bruised romance for which Hawley is famed. They got exactly that, opening appropriately with Valentine. Finishing that came our first glimpse of tonight’s secondary act, Hawley’s acerbic wit. Introducing Roll River Roll he claimed to have written it about the great Sheffield flood of 1864…In January of last year. “Never mind”, he continued, “at least all them people who won speedboats on Bullseye got some use outta them”. Fantastic banter, relayed in the kind of easy Yorkshire accent so affected by today’s Arctic Monkey-infatuated youth. More banted was inflicted upon a poor chap, off his rocker on Red Stripe, who attempted to engage in conversation in a break…”I don’t know what makes you tick”…”I hope it’s a fucking bomb” finally ended an escalating heckling session.
Back to the music, and the band certainly seemed to be having as much of a good time as the audience, belting out tune after tune of stories about addiction, unrequited love, Sheffield and sex. Highlights included recent single Tonight The Streets Are Ours, Hotel Room, The Sea Calls and aforementioned Roll River Roll. It was with seemingly genuine humility that Hawley bade his first goodbye, thanking the audience for choosing this gig out of such a wide choice. Indeed, it was a pretty last minute decision to plump for this rather than New Young Pony Club across at Koko. Hawley returned for an encore, accompanied only by an excellent harmonica player to begin with as they played a cover of Ricky Nelson’s Lonesome Town. The full band returned for three further tracks, culminating in a superb rendition of The Ocean from 2005’s Coles Corner LP.
A great performance then from Hawley and co, giving truth to the cliche that things improve with age. A shame not to hear too many tracks from my favourite LP, Lowedges, but as the man put it “This is my new album“; a barb towards the endlessly-wittering guestlisters that NME had probably brought along. It made a real change for a performance to be based around songcraft and musicianship rather than image and posturing, a band who actually looked like they were enjoying themselves. I hope the NME were paying attention, although I doubt it, they probably spent the night listening to be-cardiganned idiots whistling Grace Jones tunes in the lavatories thinking now this is new music…
Filed under: Review | Tagged: Astoria London, Live, Maps, Richard Hawley |