Saturday, 15 December 2012

A Hefty Root up the bum. Arcane Roots Live Review Old Blue Last

Arcane Roots *****
My First Tooth *****
Gunning For Tamar *****

The Old Blue Last, Shoreditch 4th December 2012

An absolutely rammed Old Blue from the moment the doors sprung open. Which bellend suggested that rock was dead? Ok, it’s a free show. And one of the country’s very finest bands are headlining. But it warms the cockles of the old blood pump to see so many out on a chilly December evening for real, live music.

Gunning For Tamar *****
Kicking off proceedings are Oxford quartet Gunning For Tamar. There’s been quite a bit of noise about these lads, so I was keen to see what the fuss was all about.

They pile into a feisty and spiky set full of interesting tempo twists and chops. Hewn from the same alt, mathy, jaunty, quirky, proggy,  indie seam as acts like Tellison, Coastline, Jumping Ships, More Than Conquerors and maybe even the brilliant Yearbook; they conjour up a radio-friendly sound with a rockier edge. Probably not going to change the world just yet as it’s a burgeoning and cluttered scene and there’s so much talent around operating within similar parameters.

Be interested to see how they develop and find a defining difference. But on tonight’s performance and by the crowd reaction, there’s real hope. Good stuff.

My First Tooth *****
I first saw this new-agey artschool collective a couple of years ago supporting the mighty Xcerts and was impressed. And tonight, things don’t seemed to have changed that much. But in a good way. Definitely still impressed. 

Their blend of nu-country (think Arcade Fire without the pretension or a cut down, polished version of Cats, Cats and Cats  with Prefab Sprout or Captain as guests) is a cheery pick-me up full of swagger, chirpiness and optimism enriched with multi-instrumental musicianship, a rocky backbone backed with sweet harmonies. 

They are far less shambolic than I recall and seem to have minimised or at least lubricated the instrument changes. And it helps that the crowd are in party mood and help up the mood of swing and sassiness. Uplifting and entertaining stuff.

Arcane Roots *****
Anyone who’s been subjected to my warblings and rantings will know just how highly I regard mssrs Groves, Burton and Atkins. They truly are one of the very finest bands in the land. So, it is with a ‘slight’ bias that I prop myself up at the bar to be entertained.

But, no matter how good I thought they were going to be, nothing prepared me for what a heaving, sweating, delirious full house was about to receive.

Tonight is a showcase of stuff from the (hopefully soon) forthcoming new album mixed with tunage and riffage culled from their brilliant Left Fire mini album. And from the swirling ambient atmospheric noodlings which herald the blitzkreig opener (Energy?) to the last fading glory of the audience-fuelled Long and Low, this was one of the highlights of the year.

Having been to over 70 individual gigs this year and having seen over 300 bands of every shape, size, flavour, taste, colour and genre, tonight’s show is pretty much at the top of the tree.

The band have never sounded better, crisper, heavier, more face-meltingly, and testicle-grippingly hard. This is music from another level. The complexity. The half-time bludgeons. The wit. The frailty. The melodies. The purity of Groves’s Burgundy balloon shattering vocals. The heart-stopping rhythmic playfulness and sophistication. The tightness. The musicianship. Just everything.

There’s even a gorgeous diversion in the midst of all the fire, brimstone and brutalisation when Emily Denton joins Andrew on stage for a goosebump-inducing stripped back rendition of the ever-beautiful Rouen

Old faves get a heavy brush-up. With Million Dollar Que$tion and the jaw-dropping extended Habibty nailing gonads to the floor while administering facial beatings with a 30lb Halibut. The newbies though, are the revelation. Hell Or High Water is an instant classic and the monster riffage in Resolve should have it’s own concrete handprint in the rock hall of fame already.

The packed house also plays its part. The sing-backs hale and hearty, the moshing and lunacy relentless and the love in the room palpable.

The true sign of greatness is when a band defines a category and defies it at the same time. With Arcane Roots, this is philosophically awkward. They are not in a category. So defining or defying is as specious as it is impossible. They are truly out there on there own. A class; no fuck it, a whole species apart. 

Can’t wait for the new album. And the praise, adulation and success it surely will merit. Big things to come from these boys. If there’s any justice in the world.

InMe and Midgar next.

More tunes soon, Bwoooar!

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