Gig Review: Catching up with Richard Hawley, The Decemberists, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

Richard HawleyWhat a week (or eight days) of lovely indie sweetness! We’ve been on a gig odyssey starting with the Wedding Present and ending with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! which should make any self-respecting female completely weak at the knees. I think the only way it could have been made any more delectable would have been to throw in a gig by The Shins, Morrissey or both.

We start on Monday, November 14th at the Manchester Academy 3 with the beautiful Richard Hawley. How one gnarled Yorkshireman can produce such heart-stoppingly gorgeous, country-tinged, Sinatra-esque lovliness I know not. But, after years of not bothering to catch one of his solo shows properly we decided that, despite New Order playing an “intimate” gig down the road, we’d happily opt for the crooning.

And wow!

Opening with the classic “The Nights are Cold” Hawley segued neatly into “Cole’s Corner” with a funny story about how that particular location in Sheffield and the act of shagging had produced him. As he ran through a setlist of warm lovliness, he surprised me by being talkative, friendly, quite funny and dealing very well with some of the most amusing hecklers I’ve experienced at a gig in a very long time. Upon being propositioned by a female member of the audience he said he thought now was the time to come out of the closet whereupon he was propositioned by a male member of the audience and was left somewhat dumbstruck. Entertaining banter aside, Hawley’s songs are like a big mug of hot chocolate when you’ve come in from the snow, or a big wooley jumper in sub-zero temperatures. They’re soothing, sentimental and induce feelings of safety and comfort.

Next up was The Decemberists the following night also at the Manchester Academy 3. I was so excited about this gig, wanting to get a better view than I had in Toronto The Decemberistsback in May. When the band came out, the bass wasn’t working so we were treated to some impromptu showtunes as requested by the audience including the theme from Phantom of the Opera, the them from the Sound of Music, the theme from Star Wars and an audience singalong to “You Are My Sunshine.”

It was all very entertaining and once they got around to playing their own songs, it was even better! They started with “The Infanta” and went straight into “July July.” Highlights included “Lesley Ann Levine,” a celebratory version of “The Sporting Life,” “The Engine Driver,” “Billy Liar” which was brilliant to hear as it was not included on the Toronto setlist and “We Both Go Down Together.” Hell, everything sounded great. The only thing really missing was “The Mariner’s Revenge Song” as we really wanted to see the prop we’d read about, but alas, it did not happen.

It was a great performance though, delivered with much gusto from the band and although we’d been hoping to hear the band’s cover of “Ask” we were pleasantly surprised by Colin’s solo rendition of “The Bandit Queen” which sounded fantastic. Hopefully it won’t be too long before they come round again.

Finally, rounding off the indie drool-fest (I’m not counting The White Stripes or The National in this as, well, they don’t make me drool) was Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! at Liverpool Academy 2 on November 21. Why Liverpool? Because we just had to go see The White Stripes the night Clap Your Hands were in Manchester. I suppose it was worth it just to discover that I really don’t care for the White Stripes. I thought I did but it’s actually just a few of their songs. Most of the rest of what they do is actually rather irritating. But never mind. Clap Your Hands are not the White Stripes, and that is a very good thing.

Clap Your Hands Say YeahLooking somewhat dishevelled and unassuming when they finally came on stage, having taken a break after setting up their own instruments, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! were not very talkative, but full of geeky charisma, pelting through song after song after song from their debut album to an enthusiastic crowd that had mostly bought their tickets based on hype alone. The set pretty much comprised of songs from the album, with stomping versions of my personal favourites “The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth,” “Over And Over Again (Lost & Found)” and “Upon This Tidal Wave of Young Blood” but also included a couple of new songs. It all sounded louder and rockier, with the vocals mixed very low, perhaps deliberately.

Against a backdrop of 3 helium balloons they were surprisingly full of rock moves, bouncing about the stage, swapping instruments and being pretty genial. With the sweaty crowd packed in so closely I was half expecting to find myself sucked into a giant pit of bouncing bodies, which, surprisingly, didn’t happen, but it was only after the gig that I realised the album isn’t out here til January and we were probably two of a small number who actually knew more than one song. The crowd certainly seemed taken with the band though, everyone was smiling and there was a massive queue for t-shirts. I should also point out how friendly the crowd was, with special thanks to the tall girl who lost her prime position and view of the stage by virtue of being kind and letting tiny little me in front of her so I could see at which point she was swept back into the crowd by jostling teenagers.

On the whole, what a great week for gigs! Bring on round two!

2 Responses to “Gig Review: Catching up with Richard Hawley, The Decemberists, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah”

  • The Indie Credential » Blog Archive » Gig Review: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Manchester Academy 2, February 7th 2006 Says:

    […] Clap Your Hands Say Yeah have come a long way in just a few short months thanks to this internet thing. Their album was released in the UK just last week and yet this gig at the moderately-sized Academy 2 sold out yonks ago. When we saw them in Liverpool last November it was more like Clap Your Hands Say “meh” (shit, I just googled that and Information Leafblower got there well before me) ; Alec Ounsworth’s nasal whine got on my nerves at times and they just didn’t seem to have any kind of spark to set them apart from all the other pretenders to the Arcade Fire throne. JustHipper certainly enjoyed them back then and the album has grown on me ever since, however, and I was willing to forgive and forget. […]

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