Expanding Horizons – Meursault live

Meursault / Rob St John / Body Parts – Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh – Saturday 7th July 2012

As album launches go, Meursault’s for the release of ‘Something for the Weakened’ was a cut above the norm.

Not only was it in the grand surroundings of the Queen’s Hall but the 7 piece ‘regular’ Meursault line-up was augmented by a string section of no fewer than 9 musicians. In the run-up to show I confess I was a little blase about this and it was only really on entering the hall when I saw just how much room this was taking up on the stage that the enormity of it hit home.

But before reaching the headliners,  first let’s look back at the 2 supports. On a huge weekend for tennis, it was appropriate that first up came the Women’s Doubles in the shape of Body Parts, the duo formed by Jill O’Sullivan of Sparrow and the Workshop and Jenny Reeve of Strike the Colours.

Featuring initially two guitars, then one guitar and the violin,the duo were  occasionally augmented by various loops (Jenny tapping her guitar to establish a rhythm on the first songs, and some ‘rhythm violin later on.) By the end though it was stripped back to the 2 voices and Jill’s guitar.

Material-wise, this sounded closer to Jill’s back catalogue than Jenny’s but it was an enjoyable set enlivened by some entertaining banter.

Next up was Rob St John. I’d not seen Rob perform since Homegame back in 2009 and to be honest I’m not as familiar as I should be with his debut LP (although coincidentally I had listened to it again the other week.)

The 6 song set may have been numerically equally split between the lighter material such as ‘Your Phantom Limb’ and ‘Sargasso Sea’ but it was the darker material that made up a significant portion of the 40 minutes or so the band were on stage. An intense version of ‘Domino’ in particular epitomised the funereal blues of the LP whilst the third song had an extended finale with some serious electronic white noise.

As befitted the occasion Meursault were as epic as I’ve ever heard them whilst still retaining an intimate edge. The strings undoubtedly contributed to that epic feel which reached its zenith on an extended ‘Dearly Distracted’ with its lengthy guitar solo in its final phase.

The main set was essentially a run through of the album in order with a half-time interval of one old song and one brand new one. ‘What You Can’t Have’ delivered a high adrenalin mid set boost which was carried on by new tune ‘New Boy’, which whilst still up tempo was lighter in tone.

The bigger rock songs on the new LP, ‘Flittin’’ and ‘Settling’ certainly benefited from the bigger is better approach although it was clear that the added instrumentation was not going to be at the expense of Neil’s guitar which seemed to get louder the longer the set progressed.

But it was the second side of the LP that really grew in a live setting. ‘Lightning Bolt’ sounded every bit as massive as ‘Flittin’’ and ‘Settling’ even prompting a ‘dancing lady’ to invade the stage and dance for a considerable time right next to Neil before being persuaded to leave.

At the other end of the scale ‘Mamie’ was stripped back to Neil and accompanying strings and showed that Meursault can do intimate even with the bigger numbers.

A rapturous reception guaranteed not one but two encores. The first started with an entirely solo performance of ‘A Small Stretch of Land’ which Neil managed to break up with lots of thanks and the impromptu naming of the string section as the Pumpkin Seeds. An abbreviated ‘Song for Martin Kippenberger’ brought things to a close but the audience responded to the please don’t send me home’ (delivered by Neil away from the mic with no backing) by bringing the band back for one last,last, last song.

‘Fib’ to close was, I think, another new one and another up tempo tune which promises much for the future.

Which in itself kind of says a lot about Meursault. Saturday night was resoundingly about launching LP number 3 which presumably most of last night’s audience hadn’t heard much of. Given that the new LP made up two thirds of the set most other bands would have rounded things out with better known tunes. Not Meursault. As noted there was no resting on the laurels with almost as many brand new songs as older ones.

It isn’t certainly easy but it sure is a lot of fun trying to keep up with Meursault. One of Scotland’s finest.

Meursault setlist

1. Thumb  2. Flittin’  3. Lament for a Teenage Millionaire  4. Settling  5. Hole  6. What You Don’t Have  7. New Boy  8. Lightning Bolt  9. Dull SPark  10. Dearly Distracted  11. Mamie  12. Untitled

Encore 1

13. Small Stretch of Land (solo)  14. Song for Martin Kippenberger

Encore 2

15. Fib