Sunday, February 26, 2012


My last encounter with Welsh wonders Race Horses was a cramped and rushed affair in the back room of The Castle following a 6Music session. Tonight's gig at Static Gallery (what's it like I asked, "
a bit Islington Mill, a bit Tan Hill Inn barn" was the perfect and accurate response) was a bit rushed for band too - a swift set-up with minimal checking of sound levels following opening band Pixels. But from their near-faultless performance and the excellent sound, this clearly wasn’t a band feeling any pressure. In fact I think this was the best set I've seen from Race Horses: energetic, tight, sweaty and both fuzzy and ferocious in the excellent ‘My Year Abroad’ or sweetly melodic and playful in ‘Pony’ or ‘What Do I Have To Do’.

Four-fifths of the band (the male four-fifths) are all tall, gangly and looked a little - well - awkward setting up their kit on stage. But once the playing starts they move seamlessly between instruments and stage positions. And singer Meilyr becomes a magnetic front-person – electric-shock twitches whilst playing bass during ‘Grangetown 02920’, towering erect with eyes closed and singing direct into hand-held mic for the final section of 'Marged Wedi Blino' or kneeling on the concrete floor amongst the crowd to whack the hell out of a bass-drum for ‘See No Green’. The new songs – a bit raw and rough-at-the-edges last July - here sounded sharp, well-drilled and immense. Only question is when is album number two with these new songs on out?

The Race Horses Set List:

Grangetown 02920
What Am I To Do
My Year Abroad
See No Green
Marged Wedi Blino

My last live encounter with Fanfarlo was also after a 6music session, in November 2011 when they followed that recording with a set at the Deaf Institute. And guess what? The new songs that then sounded tentative and even a little rough-edged, tonight sounded slick, assured and sat beautifully alongside the re-arranged older songs.

The set started in near-darkness with ‘Replicate’ lit only by a red spotlight initially and occasional strobe flashes. As the set progressed, more sophisticated lighting was introduced plus video projections on to a hexicon-shaped screen at the rear of the stage. However this wasn’t what made this such a compelling performance. Again it was the excellent songs performed by the five-piece – the rhythm section sticking with bass and drums throughout but the multi-instrumentalist front-line of singer Simon Balthazar, Cathy Lucas and Leon Beck moving between guitar, keyboards, violin, trumpet, saxophone, bell – and the largest tambourine I’ve ever seen.

I had been playing new album “Rooms Filled With Light” fairly constantly all day, it slowly worming its way into my head and my affections. I don’t think it will supplant 2009’s "Reservoir" in my affections but the mixture of songs from both tonight in this modest-sized venue, with great sight lines and superior sound was an utter delight. Possibly gig of the year so far (despite some stiff competition already).

The Fanfarlo Set List:

I’m A Pilot
Finishing Line
Atlas – A Flood
Shiny Things
Harold T Wilkins
The Walls Are Coming Down

Tonight was a Harvest Sun promotion and this joint tour has three more UK dates left before Fanfarlo head to the States.

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