At several points throughout the evening, I Am Kloot singer, songwriter, guitarist and spokesperson John Bramwell alludes to the extensive length of time they’ve been playing together. The statement’s always coupled with a thanks for those who have been there from the start. “Some of you have been following us for years,” he says. “And some of you look like you have, too.”
The cheek. Seeing as taking as good as you give is indicative of strong character (and Bramwell is certainly strong of character), I’m sure he wouldn’t mind if I described him,in turn, as resembling Paul Weller; had The Modfather lived through a war or two and seen a few things he’ll never unsee.
His voice, too, is like that of a grainier, less polite John Lennon (if such a thing were possible). Indeed, in the 13 years that I Am Kloot have been touring together, his vocals and appearance have matured in such a way that he know looks and sounds like the sort of person who might actually have lived through the “tales of drink and destruction” as described by his songs.
The band, too, are tighter, more dynamic and, above all, bigger than ever before. And the songs – the songs! They’ve attained a structural and lyrical complexity and a fathomless depth that sounds worlds apart from their beautifully scrappy early material, whilst still feeling like a natural and organic evolution.
I therefore don’t think there’s ever been a better time to go and see I Am Kloot, and I’ve been there almost right from the start. Can you tell? Do I look like someone who’s been supporting I Am Kloot for over a decade? Because according to their charming frontman, we’re distinguishable by looks alone.
The cheeky so and so.
Anyway, tonight’s gig is at Nottingham’s Albert Hall. Were you aware that Nottingham has an Albert Hall? Well it has, and it’s such a strange place to see a band as scruffily ramshackle as I Am Kloot. With the foldaway seats, the harsh lighting and the air of enforced refinement, when we enter the venue and take to our seats it feels more like we’re about to watch a school prize-giving ceremony than a rock concert.
The staff, formally at ease and dressed like Silver Service waiters, stand sentinel by the exits throughout the performance. It’s very strongly implied that there’s not to be any talking or getting up and moving about once the band have taken to the stage. It seems that the same rules that apply to classical revues applies to rock bands when they play the Nottingham Albert Hall.
The seated arrangement suits support Jesca Hoop perfectly. Her softly-spoken style and sparse guitar pickings must often fall on deaf ears when she plays in more traditional rock venues. But here, the circumstances alone demand the complete and undivided attention of the entire room; and all those who listen find their efforts more than rewarded. Because Jesca Hoop is brilliant.
A native of North California who was seemingly drawn to the drizzly romance of Manchester, she’s strongly championed by Elbow’s Guy Garvey, who apparently finds a lot to love in her strong evocations of Martha Wainwright and Regina Spektor. She also channels the spirit of Patti Smith and Laurie Anderson when a simple story told as she tunes her guitar transforms into a strange, rambling and hypnotic monologue with no real conclusion.
At one point she physically has to stop playing after someone in the audience leans their head on the shoulder of their neighbour. Apparently she can’t take it when people react “in a sweet way” to her music. I’d love to see her again – not only because the brief sample we got of her music last night made me want to hear much, much more, but also because I’d like to see how she reacts when somebody produces a live kitten from their bag and holds it towards the stage during her performance. I do believe she might melt.
But whilst the seated arrangement is perfect for Jesca Hoop, at times it feels downright odd to be seated for I Am Kloot. Right from the start – with raucous opener From Your Favourite Sky – this feels like music that usually succeeds in electrifying crowds in small and sweaty rooms. Instead, it’s greeted with a sea of nodding heads arranged neatly in the most respectable of environments.
But that’s just us. The music is impeccable, with everyone onstage obviously extremely pleased to be playing for us – and we’re very pleased to see them play! They play a satisfyingly extensive setlist comprised of material from each of their six albums, though obviously their latest – Let It All In – gets the most airing. On record, the album’s still in the “growing on me” phase. But live, their newest songs were revealed to be some of the strongest they’ve ever written. The title track and recent single Hold Back The Night are immense, whilst songs like Shoeless, Masquerade and Some Better Day sound timeless, beautiful and touching in their deceptive simplicity. Meanwhile, on These Days Our Mine, they almost reach the same heady heights as Spiritualized at their droning best.
Yet it’s the second half of their set that does it for me. First we get a trio of songs from John Bramwell in solo acoustic mode. In harking back to their simpler, more stripped-back early days, this is simultaneously a service to their long-term fans and a chance for the rhythm section to take a fag break in these post-smoking ban times.
When the full band again takes to the stage, it’s to run through a series of songs from 2010′s The Sky At Night. A very special album for me, it reminds me of a sad, lonely, desperate yet formative time of my life. I didn’t get a chance to catch them touring that album, so it was a genuine pleasure to finally hear those songs live. To The Brink might well be the quintessential I Am Kloot song – their finest achievement to date. Here the celestial strings were replaced by a sweet accordion solo to create a beautifully evocative Parisian caf feel.
Bramwell readily admits that many of their songs visit similar lyrical themes of “drink and destruction” – and indeed, he rhymes “laughter” with “after” on at least five separate occasions – but the world their music conjures, whilst dark, dank and dismal, is a truly wonderful place to visit – and never is it more vividly evoked than on such sweeping guttural masterpieces as are found on their two most recent albums.
Yet the undeniable highlight for me was Radiation – a stirring anthem of hope that successfully conjures a perfect night sky as viewed from a park bench overlooking a moonlit city. The repeated line – “Everything we ever thought we’d ever have/me and you/well it just came through” – hits me right between the eyes. It’s an overwhelming reminder of just how much better life is these days than it was the first time I heard those songs.
And I Am Kloot have been there all the time. I’ve come a long way, but they’ve come even further. I couldn’t be happier for them.
The post I Am Kloot At Nottingham Albert Hall 18/02/2013 – Live Review appeared first on WhatCulture!.