Gig Reviews: Bill Callahan/Electrelane/Sounds From The Other City

I’ll never get round to writing full reviews for these gigs so here’s a big review of all three.

The Bill Callahan gig was the day we got back from ATP and I hadn’t bought a ticket in advance not knowing what state of exhaustion I’d be in. JustHipper had somehow won tickets for the “secret” James gig in the Club Academy the same night and had gone down early. When I arrived I was told I had to join the huge queue of James fans queueing at the box office to pick up their free tickets in what was an appalling administrative cock-up. Why they couldn’t have given these out on the Club Academy door letting other people pick up their tickets for the other gigs in the building I don’t know. Instead I spent ten minutes flitting between the back of the queue, trying unsuccessfully to convince the guy on the door that the support band were already on and I was missing them, and trying to get a ticket from a tout. The latter eventually turned up trumps and I got a ticket for a couple of quid less than they were on the door and managed to catch the last three songs of Cherry Ghost, which all sounded very good despite a quite sterile atmosphere in the venue for what was a seated gig. Inevitably they closed with the brilliant “Mathematics” and I was glad I made the effort.

I’d seen Bill Callahan the day before at ATP and he was excellent but the Academy gig was stymied by the seating arrangements which didn’t work last time he played here when touring his Supper album. The new Woke On A Whaleheart long player is more rhythm, less introspection than its predecessors and the likes of “Diamond Dancer” and “Footprints” would be more suited to a small sweaty club than a soulless assembly hall. While the opening “From The Rivers To The Ocean” had little of the romantic sweep of its recorded version, “Sycamore” fared better but the real highlights came from the A River Ain’t Too Much To Love material, especially the superb extended version of “Let Me See The Colts” that closed proceedings. On the downside Thor Harris’ Neanderthal drumming with his cardboard box of a snare sound really began to grate after a while and I started to yearn for the delicate refined rhythms of the great Jim White, who had played on Bill’s previous tour.

Electrelane are one of those bands I keep meaning to check out but never get round to it so I went into their Club Academy gig a week later having only heard their Power Out record a couple of times. We caught the end of The Early Years and they sounded much better than they had when we last caught the end of one of their sets in Liverpool last year. Their wailing shoegazey guitars took me right back to 1991 and they even played the requisite ten minute closing track: all swirly effects-laden guitars and ethereal, half-heard vocals. More impressive were Electrelane, effortlessly cool behind floppy fringes and playing a varied set that, were it a book, I’d find difficult to put down. JustHipper was worried that they’d sound like Stereolab (she hates Stereolab with a passion; I took her to a Stereolab gig in 1998 and it’s as close as we ever came to splitting up) but, thankfully on this occasion, they didn’t. The only songs I recognised came in the encore with the splendid “On Parade” and a krautrocking version of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire”.

Our first experience of Sounds From The Other City, Salford’s annual mini-festival which takes place in seven pubs and a church in close proximity to each other and within easy reach of Manchester city centre, was a bit of a let down. It’s a great event, that’s for sure, but some of the venues were overcrowded to the point that we had to miss most of the bands we were planning to see. The afternoon started well with Onions‘ enjoyable power pop at the Mark Addy but stuttered immediately with the dire britrock of The Jakpot at The King’s Arms. We didn’t stick around and headed for The Black Lion to see Bitterly Ironic‘s homage to 80s synth pop and fashion followed by the electro indie of Modernaire, who I was quite enjoying until JustHipper suggested we move on to the Rovers Return where we had hoped to spend much of the rest of the evening but which was already packed to the rafters. After about a quarter of an hour of Italian Sub Poppers Jennifer Gentle’s excitable indie pop we decided to escape the crowds and found sanctity in the environs of the Sacred Trinity Church where The Boats‘ quiet electronic twitterings were in keeping with the surroundings but the two blokes sitting at their laptops didn’t hold our interest for too long – they could have been surfing the net for all we know. Or blogging. We just missed out on The Tremenduloes at the Albert Vaults but stuck around to see Gideon Conn and were very glad that we did. Conn’s refreshing, witty songs veered from folk to hip-hop and back again and this, coupled with his charmingly naïve stage demeanour made his set the highlight of the day by a long way. Back at the King’s Arms it was one in/one out for the Answering Machine so we ambled across to the Salford Arms to take in the guitar and drums racket of instrumental duo That Fucking Tank, who were pretty awesome and went down a storm with paying punters and locals alike. Then it was back to the Mark Addy where The KBC were supposed to be playing a secret show at the end of the night. We caught the last couple of songs from Working For A Nuclear Free City and decided that was enough and headed for the nearest taxi. Apparently The KBC didn’t show up anyway.

Bill Callahan – Footprints

Electrelane – On Parade

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