You wait ages for a gig and then three come along at once! Three gigs in one night, that was the plan, as we dispatched a team of crack(ed) reporters to Liverpool. They said it couldn’t be done, they said it was neigh on an impossibility to cover all three gigs… and do you know what? … They were right! Rose Elinor Dougall, Alabama Three and Run Toto Run all had gigs in Liverpool on the same evening …something had to give…here’s what happened…
(By Von Pip)
It would be nice to be able to review a Rose Elinor Dougall gig without mentioning her previous musical adventures with uber pop, 60’s girl group, the Pipettes, alas, in the first sentence alone, I have failed that particular test. Suffice to say her solo material is light years away from anything written in her previous polka dotted musical incarnation, and her performance at Liverpool’s Zanzibar club confirmed she’s got exactly what it takes to make a huge impact as a solo artist.
Rose’s early bedroom demos which appeared on myspace just over a year ago revealed fragile, bittersweet numbers, laced with melancholy which centred on themes involving love, loss, and regret, and had that rare ability to appear extremely personal whilst managing to strike a universal chord within the listener. However this tone of melancholia was also tempered with a sense of rejuvenation. Like radiant sunlight finally filtering through grey nebulous clouds, the songs also contained a sense of hope and emotional renewal, of stepping into the light…or if you will, rather like sucking on a throat lozenge, the hard, seemingly impenetrable shell finally melts, and a centre of soothing honey is revealed…erm …or something! It appears that Rose’s hard work over last 12 months, refining her sound, coming up with new arrangements for her unusually structured songs as well as working as the “grumpiest bar maid ever” have certainly paid dividends, and in conjunction with her band, The Distractions, (also featuring her brother Tom) they have polished these demos and transformed them into sparkling gems.
“I Know We’ll Never” Live
The only lo-fi element to the evening’s entertainment was a rather limp, wet lettuce of an audience (come on Liverpool wake up to new music) but it didn’t affect the bands performance one jot, they were quite superb. “Another Version Of Pop Song” kicked off proceedings in fine style, with the band hitting top form straight away; current single “Start/Stop/Synchro” sounded wonderful live and new tune the rousing “Carry On” should definitely be a future single. Rose’s songs are not always the most straightforward, and one imagines they can be quite challenging to perform; therefore it was to the bands credit that the live versions actually seemed even bigger and bolder than the recorded versions, taking on a new dimension and filling every corner of the venue with sonic beauty.
“Carry On” Live
Roses influences were evident (Broadcast, The Cocteau Twins, The Sundays and My Bloody Valentine) but the band are already developing their own unique style in no small part due to Roses hauntingly beautiful voice, which was never really fully utilised in The Pipettes- It’s a voice full of wistful loveliness and on tracks such as “I Know We’ll Never” one feels she could coax tears from a statue, whilst when singing numbers such as “Carry On” her tone shifts from contemplative introspection to exhilaratingly defiant, somewhere between Harriet Wheeler and a less belligerent Susan Ballion. The final song “Fallen Over” really highlighted the bold direction I hope the band will continue to take, all searing guitars, mellifluous vocals, swirling keyboards and pounding rhythms. If the band continues to make such rapid progress one imagines Kevin Shields will be sobbing into his pillow, consumed envy…. Utterly, gobsmackingly, brilliant! Roll on the album…. 9/10
“Fallen Over” Live
Another Version of Pop Song
I Know We’ll Never
Come Away With Me
Find Me Out
To The Sea
Meanwhile at the same time, on the other side of town ………….
I set out with great expectations of Alabama 3 having discovered them at Glasto 2005 when in my quest to get down the front for Roots Manuva I arrived half way through their set. Now if someone had tried to explain Alabama 3 to me – “Country acid house gospel” they’d have probably lost me at “Country”. Yet the weird combination of genres works, and works well. But that’s the strength of a festival, you go and see someone you like and they have an off day, then you wander past someone you’ve never heard of who end up becoming a minor obsession.
“Woke Up This Morning” Live
I was dazzled by their stage show – seedy looking reverends, cowboys, cowgirls taking it in turns to take the mic, they even had can-can girls for one of the songs. The stage was alive with energy, awash with colour, and when the opening beats of “Mao Tse Tung” began – so loud you could feel it in you bowels, I was hooked and it became my Glasto highlight of 2005. Next time I saw them was Glasto 2008. No elaborate stage show this time, but a lot of banter from the Reverend D Wayne Love kept it entertaining. No “Mao Tse Tung” though. If you go and see New Order you expect them to play “Blue Monday and “True Faith,” A3 played “Woke Up This morning” so why no “Mao Tse Tung”? Still, I met countess randoms over the course of the weekend who had come to the Jazz World stage for a cider, and left preaching the Alabama 3 gospel. They are that good live when on form.
If they are that good at Glasto, mid afternoon when a lot of the audience haven’t a clue who they are and just happened to be at that stage, how electric would one of their own gigs be, with a room filled with the faithful? Roots Manuva was chalk and cheese between Glasto 2005 and his Kentish Town Forum show soon after, both in terms of atmosphere and performance. Was this going to be the gig of my life?
Let’s cut to the chase. The answer is sadly a resounding NO. Maybe I’m being unduly harsh having such high expectations, but the band just looked jaded and bored, the atmosphere never really got going, and the sound was a bit iffy in places. To be fair, most of their set was taken from the “Coldharbour Lane” album – they must be sick to death of that album now, and it showed. There was no elaborate stage show, the banter was minimal, and once again they didn’t play “Mao Tse Tung”. Yes the Reverend D Wayne Love had his trademarked stoned look, Zoe looked and sounded damned hot, and brownie points for the sentiment of the “F*ck the BNP” rant, if none for originality. But that’s all the show had to recommend it, and I expected more for my £16 plus booking fee. The audience seemed to be enjoying themselves, and there was a good turnout, which is by no means ever guaranteed in Liverpool. But I was hoping for an atmosphere akin to when one of the local football clubs wins, sadly that didn’t happen. Now I’m just hoping they do a blinding secret gig at Glasto that will restore my faith.
RUN TOTO RUN – Korova Liverpool -12/06/2009
JK: “That doesn’t look anything like Run Toto Run, even after this many pints” …..
VP: “Maybe the effects of touring have taken their toll? They don’t look themselves at all…they look a bit haggard, and erm well, a tad hirsute …
KOROVA STAFF: “No mates, Run Toto Run have been on, they were really good, you’ve missed them…..
JK/VP: Oh sh*t! ……..anybody fancy a pint?
Here they are anyway , seeing as we missed em