Saturday, November 29, 2014

Allo Darlin' Delivers Riches in Nottingham

Meet the first correspondent to ever grace the pages of Linear Tracking Lives! This occasional commenter and all-around swell chap goes by the moniker MisterPrime, and he saw an all-star bill (at least in my world) the other evening. Read his poignant reflections below. MisterPrime, you're welcome here whenever the mood should strike. There are a mess clips from this show on YouTube from a Jim Bethell. I included one below.

Allo Darlin'
The Maze
Nottingham, 19th November 2014

This was the fourth time in recent years that I've seen Anglo-Australian indieposters Allo Darlin' -- a band about which I have to admit to developing some slightly undignified fanboyish tendencies -- play live and it seems to confirm a continued though not wholly unwelcome tendency toward increasing boisterousness. Last time, at the same venue, as headliners of the Nottingham POP! All-Dayer in September 2013, I'd taken the party-atmosphere bounciness as a symptom of the occasion, what with the banter and the Paul Simon cover and all, and I'm by no means saying that the band had been subdued in the previous, hallowed environs of Derby's historic Silk Museum in 2012, but the live atmosphere they create does seem to have had something of a remix in the last couple of years. Mind you, tonight's bill was good one too, in keeping with the band's usual policy of inviting along some like-minded friends, to the extent that even middle-aged curmudgeons like myself were forced into making the effort to turn up early.

I caught local band Seabirds, who grew out of the ashes of the promising Red Shoe Diaries (who, coincidentally, I was impressed by when they supported Allo Darlin' in Leicester early in 2012) and created something of a stir last year with their debut single "Real Tears", on Matinée Recordings. They were slightly shambolic but still charming, on only their second gig, apparently (after last years' Indietracks festival) and obviously still something of a work in progress. That said, the pieces are already in place for a fine band, the same kind of literate well-honed indie that Red Shoe Diaries were making, but with a slightly beefier twin-guitar sound. The aforementioned single, in particular, and the closing three songs of the set, once they'd got into their stride, were delivered with panache. I'm looking forward to hearing more.

Norwegian band Making Marks, who are the support for the whole tour, were also very good. Their sound is somewhat fragile too but in a much more deliberate and polished way and they exude a kind of mannered scandic charm and a clever pop sensibility somewhat reminiscent of Swedish songsmith Jens Lekman. They also have one of the coolest girl-bassists ever -- horn-rimmed, hounds-toothed and slightly haughty, like a Nordic librarian. Their short set covered stuff from throughout their career (they were previously called My Little Pony and had a tendency on record to veer a little too far into the territory of the excessively twee for my liking that they manage to avoid in a live setting), but the jaunty single "Ticket Machine" and the slow-burning title track from last year's fine 'A Thousand Half-Truths' album were particularly strong.

By the time Allo Darlin' took to the stage the small club was rammed and the atmosphere (despite its being positively Baltic outside) was typically just the wrong side of tropical -- indeed Liz admitted to that she almost had to throw up from the heat last time they were here! -- the band responding with a performance that was subtle but anything but fragile. Energetic, bouncy and pleasingly drum-skin taut, this was a big, joyful, grin-inducing racket from the outset. Here, clearly, are a group who have spent time honing their chops and the onstage chemistry between all four members is lived-in and palpable. The rhythm section is solid but flexible and Paul Rains guitar work, as some reviewers of the new album 'We Come From The Same Place' have noted, has come on in leaps and bounds, switching smoothly between fluid, high-life lead and choppy, chordal rhythm to stunning effect. Obviously the set list leant heavily on the 'We Come...' numbers, the girl-group punkiness of "Half-Heart Necklace" and aching big-chorus nostalgia of "Crickets In The Rain" (a highlight even on an album as strong as the new one is) being particularly potent. That said, a couple of first album tracks at the end ("Silver Dollars" and "Kiss Your Lips", not to mention an encore of single "Darren") are proper crowd-pleasers, the band broadly beaming as they hit the pre-chorus drops and Liz pogoing madly as she leads the crowd-singalong climaxes.

There's a real feeling (borne out, I think by the band's healthy, philosophical approach in recent interviews to the question of the possibilities of success vs. the work-life balance) that Allo Darlin' are the kind of band who do this stuff, as that song "Silver Dollars" would have it, "because they love it" and can't help but express that through the uplifting nature of their music. Here's to the next four!

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