Friday, 22 July 2011

Tramlines Review (Part 1) Guillemots @ The Leadmill

Tramlines has been growing at a ridiculous rate since it’s inception. Now in its third year it’s spilled onto a fourth day allowing the Saturday night headliners Guillemots to play a free gig at the city’s semi-legendary Leadmill venue. It’s a turn of events which is pleasing to all at KPL towers who would have otherwise been torn between the four-piece and second stage headliners Los Campesinos!. It’s for this reason we brave a walk into town and potential venue busting queues to see Fyfe Dangerfield and co.

Of course there’s a support act on first. It is a gig after all. Paul Thomas Saunders and his three piece backing band come on a little later than the crown might’ve expected and in honesty don’t do an awful lot for me. With a similar sound to the stuff coming from the Communion stable his tracks have the tendency to plod in the live setting. Where he’s clearly aiming for an epic textured place his songs come across as samey, the noisier guitar parts serving to jolt us out of daydreaming. Still, the event’s free so we can’t complain overall and it’s not as though Saunders lacks in talent, it’s just that I prefer something a little bit scrappier or edgier.

Taking to the stage just before Guillemots set to sort out a sampler, frontman (and object of Mrs KPL’s desires) Fyfe Dangerfield gets a big old cheer. “I’ll see you later” he says to the crowd, and what do you know, about ten minutes later he brings to the stage (double) bassist Aristazabal Hawkes, guitarist/effects wizard MC Lord Magrão, and drummer extraordinaire/DJ Elephant Shampoo Greig Stewart. The band open with ‘Don’t Look Down’, the only track tonight that they’ll play from second album Red, building it up to it’s chaotic pop climax before taking it down again to the beautiful outro, over which Fyfe sings the chorus to Janelle Monáe’s ‘Cold War'.

Setting the standard for the night, Guillemots choice to eschew the bigger hits for more fan favourite tracks seems to work a treat, even if the same set on the Hallam FM sponsored main stage on Saturday could spell disaster. ‘Go Away’ from the From The Cliffs mini-album is aired in all it’s genre-disregarding glory and tracks from latest album Walk The River including ‘Vermillion’ and the dreamy ‘Inside’ are utterly delightful. It’s easy to mess up in a live setting with music as delicate as that released by Guillemots, but with strong songs and an incredible amount of talent between them they make it work.

‘Trains To Brazil’ gets perhaps the biggest reaction of the night. Deservedly so too, it still sounds like nothing else on earth. Oddly epic and epically odd it still has the power to induce goosebumps. But then so does ‘Made-up Lovesong #43’ which is played early on in the set and is introduced by Fyfe standing at the front of the stage with what may be the world’s smallest keyboard. The twinkling fairy lights draped behind the band add a bit more sparkle to proceedings, not that it’s needed. If there’s one issue with the performance tonight it’s that Magrão’s guitar is perhaps too low in the mix and Arista’s backing vocals are too high. It’s a minor gripe perhaps, but needs mentioning at this point just to bring the paragraph to a satisfactory close.

The second half of Guillemots set brings more delights, showcasing Walk The River fantastically. Current single ‘I Must Be A Lover’ – which I’ve perhaps not been too kind about in the past – sounds much better live than it’s recorded counterpart does. With the sound of strings coming through clearly in the mix (either from sampler or Magrão’s effects peddles) it reaches the heights it was always intended to manages to connect. Likewise the album’s finest moment ‘I Don’t Feel Amazing Now’ (performed early on) is complemented by pink and blue lights reflecting from the disco ball and single ‘We’re Here’ (done by a solo Fyfe with an electric guitar) result in a moments that are simply perfect.

Traditional set closer ‘Sao Paulo’ is the only way for Guillemots to encore and not a moment of the 12 minutes is wasted. For a non-single of such a length it’s always surprising to see that everyone knows the words. Unlike the cheers part way through lesser-known songs, everyone’s familiar with the pauses and movements of Through The Windwopane’s closer and by the time that the song’s waves of sound reach the climatic section the fairly lights gush blue under the cascading green light that bathes the band. The goosebumps are back and Guillemots have opened Tramlines perfectly.

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