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Gig Review: Neil Halstead @ Sacred Trinity Church, Salford, 25th September 2008

We had quite a choice of gigs last Thursday and after planning to head down to the Night & Day for Broken Records we changed our minds, realising that we couldn’t pass up the chance to see Neil Halstead at Sacred Trinity Church. For starters, he tours rarely, whereas Broken Records are currently plugging away and are bound to be back soon when they have an album to promote. Secondly, Sacred Trinity Chuch is a wonderful venue and we could imagine hearing Neil’s beautiful folky, poppy ex-Shoegazer tunes echoing around the hall and we just knew it was going to be a good gig.

Daniel Land and the Modern Painters @ Sacred Trinity Church, SalfordOpeners Daniel Land and the Modern Painters started proceedings with what I can only describe as anthemic shoegazer indie. They reminded me a little of Doves and a little of defunct Manchester outfit Snowfight in the City Centre but with additional fuzzy guitar effects. I can equally imagine enjoying them in a dark, smoky basement with loads of smoke and backlighting as I can sitting in a field in the sunlight with a couple thousand people singing along. The songs were immediately effective and the band put in a good performance. The between-song banter was humble and funny and warm.

Neil Halstead has been on and off my radar for a while. I have one Slowdive album, Souvlaki, which I like but never really grew to love. I adore the first Mojave 3 album, Ask Me Tomorrow. Something about the way they marry the aesthetics of their shoegazer days with folky, twangy country tunes really appeals and the quiet restraint combined with the lyrics about love and loneliness still have me coming back to that album ten years on. I completely missed out on a couple of Mojave 3 albums but picked up Puzzles Like You, the most recent offering, to discover that they had mutated again and were writing pop gems that were more reminiscent of Teenage Fanclub than My Bloody Valentine. Needless to say we were expecting a bit of stylistic variety from Neil Halstead.

Neil Halstead @ Sacred Trinity Church, SalfordThe gig began with Neil sitting in a chair, playing soft folk songs on just his acoustic guitar before inviting the full band on stage. He was reserved, as expected, but did have a couple of funny stories to go with the songs – as folk singers do. He amused the crowd by playing a track he said he probably shouldn’t play in a church as it was about being woken up by people knocking on his door to teach him about Jesus Christ. The songs with the full band were still folky, with more of an Iron & Wine vibe than anything else – so it seems he’s gone the whole route from fuzzy guitars to soft country to American-influenced folk. Having heard music from every stage of his career, it actually makes sense – he’s always written light, airy melodies, he just changes the way he chooses to present them.

Midway through the set he sent the band back off stage so he could play a few Mojave 3 tracks for us. First asking the crowd for requests, he abandoned that idea when the only requests he received were for tracks he said he couldn’t play. He instead performed songs of his own choosing – sadly, songs whose names are unknown to us – before bringing the band back on stage to finish the set with a final few numbers before closing with a song about beards – dedicated to everyone with facial hair.

Overall, it was a lovely performance, pretty much what we expected, to be fair, and enough to recommend his solo album for purchase.

Neil Halstead – Martha’s Mantra (For The Pain)

Mojave 3 – She Broke You So Softly

Posted by JustHipper on 1st October 2008 at 8:40 pm | comments (2)
File under daniel land and the modern painters,Gig Reviews,manchester gigs,mp3,neil halstead,sacred trinity church.