Monday, June 29, 2009


Malcolm Middleton hinted earlier this month that he might take a break from his solo recording career. He was quick to explain what he meant: not that he was giving up playing live and stopping recording but that he might turn his hand to other musical projects. Phew. Although this wasn't a perfect gig, there was enough moments of magic to remind/confirm to the crowd what a talent this man is.
Malcolm took to the stage around about 9.30 with a four-piece backing band (five if you count occasional backing vocals from The Pictish Trail). Normally this is a good thing. But memories of Malcolm's last gig at Night and Day were still strong - that was a stripped-down, acoustic band: just violin, stand-up bass and acoustic guitar. And it was mesmerising. The full – electric - band live experience echoes some of the faults (picky, picky) I find with selected moments on some of his albums: that songs that would benefit from subtlety are buried in a heavily layered sound. So it was with the first part of the set here: loud, dense and barely able to hear the lyrics (and not helped by the distraction of the sound guy running around with cables). It's as though Malcolm is shy of (constantly) exposing himself through song so heaps on the instrumentation to hide behind and amongst it.

So that’s my major gripe out of the way - and don’t let it put you off seeing him live – it’s just a personal thing. By the sixth song in the set (the “best B-side I have ever written” ‘Whistle’) some more of the balance to the sound was restored: the quieter moments shone through. For the rest of the set the band were supporting Malcolm’s songs rather than dominating them. And this seemed complete when guitarist Jenny switched to violin – the poignancy of ‘Choir’ and ‘Speed on the M9’ and the humour of ‘Blue Plastic Bags’ came out and the full band sound worked brilliantly on ‘A Brighter Beat’ and ‘We’re All Going To Die’.

Highlights for me were the trio of encores all from the new album starting with 'The Ballad of Fuck All' performed just by Malcolm and Jenny. Truly beautiful. So by the end on a hot Monday night, it had all come together (to my ears) but too late in the day to rate this overall as a excellent night. Good in parts then. But when it was good….ah.

Earlier on support had been from the consistently excellent The Pictish Trail. Ms L wasn’t too enamoured with the songs that opened and closed his short set: programmed beats and sampled synths. But the rest of his set between those songs we all agreed were worth paying attention to: angelic voice, picked guitar and gorgeous melodies and a Lone Pigeon cover to boot. For a record label boss, Johnny Flynn is a fine musician.

Malcolm supported by the Pictish Trail continue their UK tour until Saturday – forget the heat and make the effort to see them. Remember he may or may not be taking a break from all this.

The Set List:

Red Travelling Socks
Subset of the World
Box & Knife
Loneliness Shines
Kiss At The Station
Speed On The M9
A Brighter Beat
We're All Going To Die
Blue Plastic Bags
Ballad of Fuck All
Carry Me
Don't Want To Sleep Tonight

Malcolm Middleton
Waxing Gibbous [BUY]

Malcolm Middleton
Into The Woods [BUY]

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