Friday, 25 October 2013

Midlake live at Nottingham Glee Club, 22nd October

It's not unusual for a band to continue recording after the departure of a key member, but it is more notable for a band to stay together following the departure of their lead singer and songwriter.  In Midlake's case, when founder member Tim Smith left the band in 2012,  the remaining members made the decision to keep writing and recording as Midlake, with guitarist and backing vocalist Eric Pulido taking over leadership duties.  As a longtime fan of Midlake - a band who, even when performing with the original line-up would tend to come out with a slightly new sound with each new record, from their oddball Americana debut Bamnan and Slivercork, to the prog rock-ish concept album The Trials of Van Occupanther, to 2011's folk song cycle, The Courage Of Others - I was intriuged to find out how the new line-up would affect their sound.

It wasn't the most auspicious of starts: throughout the support act I was feeling sick, dizzy, hot, and rather like I wanted to go home and lie down.  But it didn't take much more than to hear the rhythmic drum beat that heralded the start of Midlake's crowd-pleasing opener Young Bride to get me feeling bright-eyed again.  Knowing that an audience needs to be eased into new material, they followed up with two tracks from The Courage Of Others, the gentle folk of the record here beefed up into a bigger, rockier sound. 

Only the most oblique reference was made by Eric to the drastic changes to the line-up ("It's been a while, and we're a little different... [beat] our beards are bushier and our bellies fatter").  New single Antiphon was well received, the four part harmony sounding full-bodied and rich.  Another new track, It's Going Down, reminded me of Grizzly Bear at their most melodic and harmonious, while the remainder of the new material did not sound a million miles away from Midlake's last album.

The real highlights, though, were the handful of tracks from ...Van Occupanther, which received a riotous reception.  Roscoe, with its 70s keyboard sound, Van Occupanther and Head Home (both from the encore) were performed with a joyous energy, the band clearly having the time of their lives, and so too the audience.

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