Book Group / Wozniak / Gigantic Leaves – Opium, Edinburgh – Friday 12th December and
Ibibio Sound Machine / Kid Canaveral / Hector Bizerk / Sweet Baboo & The Pictish Trail / PAWS / Randolph’s Leap / Synaesthete / The Spook School – Portobello Town Hall – Saturday 13th December.
One weekend and two musical Christmas parties different in scope and feel.
MPT’s crazy Christmas weekend kicked off with Wozniak’s bash at Opium on Friday night. It was certainly the more intimate affair featuring just the three bands.
Last time I saw them Gigantic Leaves had washed over me a bit and, to be honest, after the first couple of songs, I was inclined to think it was going to happen again. But there was a spark about the third song which carried into the rest of the set and I ended up enjoying them a lot more than I’d expected.
Opinion seemed to be split as to how the Wozniak set compared to past outings. For what it’s worth, from a heavy version of ‘Columbo’s Car’ they seemed on the money to me.They’ve certainly been one of my favourite live bands of the year and Friday provided plenty of justification for that.
Book Group’s set may just have been the best show I’ve seen them play this year despite half the set being almost completely new tunes. Two of those new tunes, of course were their own Christmas tunes with the not entirely appropriately named ‘Choke’ particularly impressive. ‘The Art of Underachieving’ received another outing whilst ‘Kickstart’ replaced but sounded just as good as stand out last time ‘Mayonnaise’. Impressively all these new songs live up to the high standards the band have established.
The one down side was that there was little room left for the old favourites with only ‘Here Is Too Near’ from this year’s E.P. and no ‘Victory Lap’ at all (for the first time ever?).
Unfortunately Friday had a lot in common with a lot of shows I’ve been at this year. The music was wonderful, but the turnout a little disappointing.
Which was arguably true about Saturday’s version of the Baubles, insofar as it became the first version not to sell out in advance.
Whether connected or not musically this was by some distance the most eclectic Christmas bill that the Canaverals have put together to date. In fact, I was a little worried as to how much I would enjoy the whole thing and that feeling initially wasn’t helped by bad planning which meant that we missed the majority of the band I most wanted to see – The Spook School. (In fact, had the event not been late in starting, we’d probably have not seen them at all.)
Still the two and a half tunes we did catch were great and renewing proper acquaintance with their live show has to be a high priority for 2015.
Fortunately we did manage to see all of the Synaesthete set. Synaesthete is of course the current guise of ex-Come On Gang singer/songwriter/drummer Sarah Tanat-Jones and this show was Synaesthete’s Edinburgh debut.
The tunes were mainly drawn from the debut album ‘Array’, but Sarah made the most of not being stuck behind a drum kit with an energetic performance, somehow managing to sing, drum and dance, occasionally all at the same time. There was no doubt that the tunes gain an extra dimension from the live percussion but at their heart they remain excellent pop tunes.
Next up were Randolph’s Leap who delivered one of those rare, restrained but beautiful performances. They really should do this more often because the versions of ‘Weatherman’ and, particularly ‘Unnatural’ were absolutely stunning. Their star is definitely on the rise as there was a decent attempt to get them to play an encore.
PAWS concluded the afternoon’s entertainment and a year of relentless touring has lent their live performances a real hardcore edge. The tunes are still there but the songs were a blur of velocity. For all the energy, however, it may not do them any harm to throttle back just a little.
If the afternoon had been varied, it still all had a strong relationship to the Scottish indie rock scene in one way or another. But the evening session pushed boundaries significantly from acoustic pop through hip hop to afrobeat.
After the tea break Sweet Baboo and Pictish Trail delivered a charming set mixing their respective songs in turn. There was no question that the inclusion of different instruments such as the keyboards did help elevate the set whilst, as you would imagine, the between song chatter was wildly entertaining.
Oddly Hector Bizerk were new to me but, even despite not necessarily picking up on all the lyrics, they were still very impressive. Hypnotic was how that Canaveral chap in the loud shirt had described them and, as ever, he was spot on. The audience loved them.
The Canaverals themselves (and that shirt) delivered the best set I’ve seen them play in a good wee while. It perhaps wasn’t the best technical show they’ve ever played (although the Christmas decoration shorting David’s pedal board was an entertaining hitch!) and there wasn’t any new material. But it was certainly the most spirited I’ve seen them for some time.
What the show did do was officially add a fifth Canaveral – free agent Michael Craig circumventing the transfer window to join in time for the show. Without any drastic rearranging, the additional keyboards were certainly more noticeable on some tunes (particularly ‘Low Winter Sun’) than others. But what will be really interesting to see will be how big an influence the full time presence of keyboards has on the new material when it arrives.
Ibibio Sound Machine
Headliners for the show were Ibibio Sound Machine a completely new name to MPT. On hitting the stage they quickly transformed the front half of the Town Hall into one seething dancing mass. In fact there were some sights to behold from the safety of the balcony including one middle aged jacket being discarded having presumably worn for the whole day to protect its wearer from the bitter cold. In short ISM’s mix of afrobeat, soul and funk provided the perfect party atmosphere to close the day.
In the end, despite my fears, Baubles V exceeded my expectations with the variety of musical styles working surprisingly well. Roll on 2015.