This is my first visit to Bush Hall. And it is actually a hall. A full blown village sized hall, with chandeliers (we don’t know how real) and coke served out of bottles. It’s like being in my local village hall, aged 13. We sit on the floor, assembly like, with our legs crossed and revel in the nice music being performed in front of our wide eyes. It reminds me of the communal excitement of going on stage, and performing locally and feeling good about something, that to the wider London world probably seems a bit crap really. That’s not meant to give you, the reader, a foreseen ascension into crapsville, but more that the habitat may somewhat contribute to what follows.
The first guy on this evening, I’ve never before heard of. A quick flick through Google and I’m pretty certain we didn’t miss some fundamental moment in musical history, since it appears that no one else really knows who he is either. If anything good is to come out of this evening, it’s the thankfulness that we got here early. Denis Jones is pretty special. He knows how to play his instruments. Even more impressive is that he uses synths on stage, in the way that synths should be used. He uses them to solidify his acoustic performance into something with musical altitude. Careful string plucks, cute little hums and murmurs, gentle flicks and strange beeps and a sophisticated use of analogue equipment, all add to the presumption that Denis Jones is a man that knows what he is doing. ‘Beginning’ is beautifully orchestrated and beguiling. Jones slaps his guitar in between strums; he plays perfectly in alignment with his backing track. He closes his eyes when he sings. Oh how we love people who do that!
In contrast, Peter Broderick doesn’t appear to know the cardinal rule of synths/electronic devices in live sets. You don’t just plug in your tape recorder and hum along to a few songs, play a few chords here and there, and generally mill around on stage without a fiddle with which to twiddle. Y’see Broderick’s whole performance is solely dependent on these strange electronic devices. At one point he gets a long fluorescent tube and stands on stage (his backing track doing all the work for him) and just swings it round his head. Him. Stood. There. Lassoing a fluro tube around his head. Yes. Just. That. (Eek!) Some people hate pretentious twaddle, present company included. Isn’t the whole part of the musical performance the fact that there is some performance of the musical variety? Not a guy looking disparate and mute on stage consoled only by his self-inflicted solidarity. Would a regular Friday night on his lonesome be spent the same way? The nicest tit bit is when Peter sits down like a Sunday school teacher and plays the less extravagant piano near side, and his friends patter on stage to sing along like children in a nativity play. Case in point is that Broderick’s friends are actually tonight’s headliners – Efterklang . When Broderick can actually be arsed to play, he plays well but watching someone, with no particular sense of purpose, meander around the stage like he’s looking for cookies, is not my personal idea of fun.
Even if Broderick hasn’t found the cookies he was looking for, we have. For all Efterklang’s earlier pre-school nativity activity and Architecture in Helsinki cutesiness, they return to the madam’s boudoir to dress their lapels; transforming in front our wide eyes to bejewelled and waist coated people with purpose and prowess. Efterklang maketh seven, including Mister Broderick who provides accompaniment on his violin (which possibly explains his reluctance to play his own set). They are obviously good at what they do; I personally cannot fathom having the ability to play music that complicated without the aid of a conductor, or a complicated manuscript (who comes in where? How do they know when?). It’s in their Sigúr Ros moments, on songs like ‘Polygyne’, ‘Mirador’ and ‘Caravan’ that their mastery becomes apparent. Those in closest proximity seem most enthused by the ‘klang’s earlier work. Problem is, something is missing; a spark perhaps. It’s all very clever and musically highbrow but something is switched off; an essential light bulb gone in the back making the set seem that bit dimmer. Perhaps the emphasis is too much on the namesake of the album, bounding through city after city, parading through their songs that little bit too easily. Maybe our hopes were that little bit too high; but with such a promising start to the evening, we had hoped the low-fi, communal spirit to have been carried through, but something important appears to have gone awol.