The Album Leaf – Live Review

The Album Leaf @ The Deaf Institute

22/03/2010

by Chris Oliver

After seeing the wonderful Dennis Jones on Saturday, I’m geared up for some more eclecticism from The Album Leaf. To my ire, I have to wait outside, as (according to the bouncer) doors have been delayed half an hour because the band are ‘just dicking about with their gear all over the floor’. I assume he’s referring to the support act, as The Album Leaf are sitting out the back on the fire escape, playing an impromptu mini-gig with a beer barrel for a drum. Awesome.

I’d love to tell you the name of the support band, but they didn’t tell me and I’m not psychic. They obviously don’t read my articles (http://citylifers.co.uk/the-seven-deadly-sins-of-music-performance) . Any road, they start out lifeless and work their way all the way up to comatose. It’s mediocre, devoid of emotion, pretty shoddily played and sloppily put together. Probably a good thing they didn’t mention the name, then, I guess.

The Album Leaf’s stuff is pretty chilled, so I’m somewhat surprised when less than ten seconds in to the first song, the guy behind me kicks off with me for having the temerity to talk to a couple I’ve just met. The subsequent macho posturing and accompanying adrenaline dump spoils the first ten minutes (probably for both of us). In a lot of ways he has a valid point – the music is subtle, well thought-out, and best appreciated actively rather than as background to an argument. It’s not often that you get the feeling that a band are consciously satisfied with every note, but you really get it from The Album Leaf.

My girlfriend points up at what was the empty backstage balcony area. Without looking, I say ‘no, we’re not allowed to sit there’ but in fact, she’s pointing at the local string quartet who have appeared up there. There’s a whole host of multi-instrumentalism happening on-stage too, with three part harmonies, another violin, glockenspiel, keys, synths and all the usual suspects. Electronic drums and samples mix seamlessly with the drummer, whose performance is probably the stand-out best of the night.

There’s a great deal of emotion in this music – although there’s a lack of real engagement with the audience. As my surprisingly thuggish friend from earlier seemed to opine, though, it’s about the sounds and not the show.

What they play on the night sounds very similar to the recorded versions with a few nice little extras thrown in. The string quartet do remarkable work in thickening up the sound, and watching the interactions between them and the band is at times captivating. After a while, unfortunately, the lack of variety tells and I’m ready to go before the encore. Probably all that ‘fight or flight’ – and I’m a lover, not a fighter, baby.

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