Sunday, April 29, 2007

Gig review: Death Vessel / Low at the Rescue Rooms 25 April 2007

Although lovely Mike has already remarked on this event, and provided his own review of the gig, it's still worth me putting my two-penneth in, right?

Anyway, bearing in mind that Cloud and I were in a spirit of despair at the philistines of the East Midlands rejecting the chance to see Einstürzende Neubauten at Rock City, 'low' was probably a good way to describe our mood as we went to see the maestros of Minnesotan slowcore. At first we got in a muddle over the venue - we were convinced it was the delightful Rescue Rooms but then we realised the tickets said Rock City, only to find it WAS the Rescue Rooms as Maximo Park were filling the larger venue. [In light of the EN cancellation, that would have been weird to find Low selling out Rock City!] Still, after that minor hiccup, we got ourselves in the right venue and settled in a corner with a good view of the stage.

First up was Death Vessel. Now I have to admit I knew nothing of this artiste prior to the gig (even that this was the support act). So when a lithe, but delicately muscular figure with long dark hair came to the stage with just a mandolin-esque shaped guitar I wasn't sure what I was expecting. As the powerful folksy, bluegrass guitar work began, so did an incredible falsetto pitched vocal that seemed defy the usual physics of singing. This, it turned out, was the stipped down Death Vessel, since the band is effectively driven by Joel Thibodeau. That's right, Joel. As one bloke said when eagerly buying up their album from the cd stand at the end of the support set, "that was a guy? I just spent the whole set convinced it was a girl... I kept thinking PJ Harvey...".

It wasn't hard to understand why he had not spotted this (though why it perhaps mattered is another story); certainly, Cloud and I had had the benefit of our location in the venue to make it easier to see or at least read it was a male vocalist. But what an amazing voice. Joel never spoke until right at the end of the set, where his infintesimally lower pitched spoken voice just about gave the game away: his delight at the reception he'd stirred reflected genuine surprise and his humility drew even more raptuous cheers. Listening back to the album "Stay Close" with its built up band sound might have been too much of a contrast to his solo performance at the Rescue Rooms. Actually, barring some obvious moments that could not be replicated (a duet track - Mandan Dink), the gig gave a very accurate reflection of the album. And it was particularly wonderful to hear such a clear and unfuzzy performance where the subtleties of lyrics - even if abstruse in construction - could be heard. A worthwhile and rather stunning support.

And so to Low.

We have to acknowledge the George for our introduction to Low. It was his championing of "(That's How You Sing) Amazing Grace" that first turned us on to the band:

What can we say? We were suckers for the lo-fi, post-rock beauty of their vocals and music. Even as the band upped the gears for more recent albums, they have retained all the power and magic of their earlier works. We were really chuffed to be getting the chance to see them live.

It was, as we hoped, a delight. From Sandinista, Belarus, Dragonfly, Murderer and Violent Past from the new album, through Sunflower, Two-Step and Dinosaur Act plus more from the past: there was active guitars and subtle percussion, delicate harmonies and powerful vocal deliveries.

And what more could we have wanted on a hot April evening than for a band to half-begrudgingly, if ultimately beautifully, succumb to a recklessly time-of-year-inappropriate request for "Just Like Christmas"? With the inclusion of "...Amazing Grace" as a hymn of romance for the room to well up in tears to, it was a stunning evening.

One bloke near us asked his friend how it compared to him seeing the band previously: "the best" he proclaimed without hesitation, and that's just as it should be. All that and a 'bloggers corner' too! Brilliant.


George said...

Go Dudes go! Thanks for the namecheck Lisa, I'm very glad they treated you right after your EN disappointed. I would so love to see Amazing Grace live. It is the ultimate. Any Canada??

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

Canada certainly got a shout-out from the audience - as did several tracks actually - and "Two-Step" was actually dedicated when they did it as part of the encore to "the girl with the lovely accent over there" (which was to a young woman just in front of Neil and I).

Neil would have loved to hear "Tonight the Monkey Dies" which he particularly likes from their newer stuff, and I would have been well happy to hear "Condescend" but in light of the range of material we got, just the thought of hearing AG was brilliant and hearing it was a joy. And as I say, the incongruity of "Just Like Christmas" was sheer exuberant joy!

Anonymous said...

Saw them last night in Shepherd's Bush. Alan was a bit taken aback by someone shouting out 'Any chance of a slow one?' about halfway through the set.

Death Vessel seems to live underground, and is unable to make eye contact with anyone apart from newts and voles. The newts worry about him.