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The Chills / Clipper – Electric Circus, Edinburgh – Friday 1st August 2014

Wow. Just … wow.

I went along to the Chills at the Electric Circus last night optimistic of seeing a great show but very much a great show loaded in favour of the oldies. I suspect that the packed audience were expecting much the same.

What I definitely WASN’T expecting was a set (and a fairly lengthy set, at that) pretty much split equally between the classics and new material.

Given that acquaintances of mine reckon that Mr Phillipps’s muse departed sometime around ‘Soft Bomb’ that wouldn’t have seemed like much of a prospect a few days ago. Yet in reality last night’s show was a triumph.

As this was the first Chills gig in Scotland in 24 years, such a focus on new material could have been a risky approach – there was a long run of unfamiliar songs in the middle of the show. Yet every new song was at least as strong as the last and, crucially they sounded just like the Chills should do.

It was actually quite thrilling to see a band in their position usurping expectations by being so confident in their new material. Any accusations of the Chills being a heritage band should be dismissed with contempt.

They must have played just about all of the new album and as ever with the Chills, there was a great deal of variety. ‘Underwater Wasteland’ was something of an epic whilst the other tunes ranged from the poppier end of the band’s repertoire to some harder edged material (via some Gaelic tinged surf funk!).

Of course the emphasis on new material did have the marginal downside that there was room for only a fraction of the band’s back catalogue. But, let’s face it, that is exactly the position a long running band that is still moving forward should be in – always leaving you wanting more.

Of the older stuff, a spine tingling ‘Night of the Chill Blue’ to open seemed like it would be impossible to top but the classic ‘Pink Frost’ (with its extended intro) managed it and the rest of the older stuff came very close.

Surely in some alternative universe ‘Heavenly Pop Hit’ was treated with the enthusiasm from a mass audience that it received last night whilst ‘I Love My Leather Jacket’ was a suitably raucous way to end the main set.

With the curfew at the Circus usually strictly enforced and the clock having nearly reached 10 by this stage we did wonder if that might be it. But the band managed back for rapturously received versions of ‘Doledrums’ and ‘Rolling Moon’ to finish a pretty much perfect evening.

With Martin promising a new album early in 2015 and, hopefully, a proper tour to back it up, the prospects for the Chills in 2015 look fantastic.

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Clipper, a six piece Edinburgh outfit, who carried a lot of the instrumental melodies on flute, had opened the show. At times they sounded like a heavier Ballboy and that impression was only increased by the fact that the set was based around songs about the Lockerbie bombing. There was certainly a weighty, ponderous feeling to the first couple of tunes and I’m not sure how you would create an album of that sort of material. But taken as a whole the five tunes worked well in a live context before they finished in rather more up tempo style with a Clean cover both to honour the headliners’ home country and to note that Clipper, like the Clean, feature two Kilgour brothers! Ultimately I did enjoy them a fair bit.

A good night then and one that more than justified the fairly late decision to take on yet another trip to the capital at this time of year. In fact, August, you now have an awful lot to live up to …

If you’re quick, there may still be a chance to catch the Chills live in Scotland before they return to New Zealand as they are playing the Old Fruitmarket in Glasgow this evening (2nd August).

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