It’s not unfair to say that I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while, as the band who came up with one of my joint-favourite albums of the year roll into town. I’d seen frontman Jeff Klein play a few times both as travelling member of the Twilight Singers and Gutter Twins and also as a lone act, the last time being a sparsely-populated, incredibly hot, but thoroughly entertaining solo set back in the summer, with some mention that his new collective contained members of Overkill, Megadeth and Stryper, this has a lot to live up to.
Thankfully, we are instead treated to members past and present of the Polyphonic Spree, Midlake and Ed Harcourt’s band. And no bee-like stripey spandex in sight.
It cannot be understated just how well this current incarnation of Jeff Klein’s eccentric and eclectic collective manage to utilise their extraordinary individual talents to create such a huge and unified sound. From the very beginning of Valley of Casualties, everything clicked into place and provided the audience with an incredibly focused and fun performance, with no quarter given from start to finish.
I suppose that being a constantly shifting assembly of talent, it would be tricky to pull off renditions of Gone For Good‘s impressive roster without it coming across as a bit different. And different it certainly was – the aforementioned Valley changed from its gentle album version to something altogether more expansive and noisy. The band(whoever happens to be in it at any given time)’s clarion call of Sweet Chariot (as fine a definition of a band’s sound as any I’ve heard) came across as pure catharsis and drive, while quieter moments such as can be found in Gone For Good and Love You When You Leave were finely-tuned moments of heartbroken calm.
The room itself was fairly well-populated, albeit all sat down at our tables until Jeff asked us all kindly to join the band up at the front, which a fair few of us duly did, which added to the high spiritedness of the evening, albeit in rather reserved fashion (hey, we’re British! It’s amazing we didn’t all line up in a queue). This well-meaning yet slightly muted throng seemed to help spur the band along cheerfully through their set consisting of their debut album in its entirety, plus Heroin(e) from their first EP as a nice comedown of an encore.
It’s hard to pick favourites from a set that was full of them. Bury It Low and Sleepwalking take their cues from Studio 54 and evolve into something altogether more mucky and enjoyable. Remember Everything retains its sweet heart in this joyous performance. Hit the Lights was sinister and bottom heavy. And Farewell came across as the maddest and happiest Irish/Louisiana funeral march in existence, and it was more than welcome for its appearance.
No doubt the next time that Jeff Klein brings his hugely entertaining circus through town, it may well be with some new faces and different interpretations and arrangements of these songs. And I guess that’s the point of being able to mix and match such great musicianship and know that the end result is going to be as good as it was tonight. One of those truly special gigs, and definitely one that will last long in the memory.
Valley Of Casualties
Gone For Good
Shake The Devil
Love You When You Leave
Poison the Truth
Hit the Lights
Bury it Low
Special mention should also be made of the two support acts tonight. Girl, Peculiar was an acoustic solo act with a nice line in quirky and charmingly doolally songwriting, and The Last Republic were very impressive, featuring a vocalist with a rather amazing voice. I’ll certainly be hoping to dig up some more stuff by both acts in the near future.