Lambchop - Barbican
Live Review

Lambchop – Barbican, London

Only a band with a muso cult following, perhaps only somewhere like the Barbican, could shuffle quietly out onto the stage, meander through some old-man musings accompanied by music so gentle as to almost not be there, and hold a hall enraptured. The sold-out Barbican Hall on Thursday night was filled with a kind of hushed respect that bordered on reverence.

It was an odd feeling, and one that front man Kurt Wagner, whose prosaic, minimalist songwriting abhors a vacuous pretentiousness, would probably have been happy to dispel. Sitting slightly off to the side of the stage, turned towards his band and away from the audience, he avoided any sort of showmanship, and simply plucked and gruffled his way through a set of quietly emotive songs. The other members of Lambchop accompanied him with a low-key mastery that humbly yet richly pervaded the auditorium.

The set comprised mainly songs from the band’s recent album ‘Mr M’, which has a sound Wagner describes as “psych-Sinatra” – all laden with nostalgia and lovely 50s strings. However, while they remembered to pack the nostalgia, it appears Lambchop left the strings behind for this tour, which was a bit of a shame. I, and the lovely acoustics of the Barbican Hall, missed them. With the exception of the single ‘Mr M’, where strings were used in a backing track to rather touching effect, we generally had to be content with the backing vocals of Cortney Tidwell in their place. Occasionally they worked well, giving Wagner’s grumbles an extra layer of depth. Often though, I found her improv-style oooo-eeee-ooos irritatingly obtrusive.

She was still a bit of a gem despite that, young Ms Tidwell, with her proper down-home country voice used to an anything-but-country effect, and her support set was a little triumph.

It was a muted, pleasurable evening, a bit like joining Lambchop on the porch while they had a little jam session and watched the world go by. At times it was almost too sophorifc – even the most committed of musos could be seen shuffling in their seats every now and again, and Wagner joked that his first song of the encore “sounds just like all the others”. But it was the sort of experience you could sit back with a glass of wine and quietly enjoy. And given that most of the audience generally seemed as old and world-weary as the protagonists of Wagner’s songs, perhaps we all deserved a bit of a rest.

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