Book Group – it’s been quite a while.
2017 actually managed to pass without me seeing BG live once due to a scarcity of dates and a couple of unfortunate clashes.
As a result, there was really no soft landing for this show specifically arranged to showcase new tunes, no ‘I heard that one last year’. Instead it was 10 new tunes presented one after the other. Well, nine and a half maybe – but we’ll come to that later.
Unfortunately, the acoustics were … sub-optimal. The live room at the Safari Lounge is tiny with the result that Mr Brodie’s drums were very loud. Very, very loud.
Equally (and I never thought I’d ever say this!) but Mr Morrison’s guitar wasn’t loud enough, and Mr Anderson struggled at times to be heard – even when we were standing just a few feet from him. All of this meant that a lot of the potential subtleties of the evening were lost.
There was also the proximity of the end of term party with associated chatter in audience which on another night would have been off-putting. But, for once, it wasn’t a huge problem and that’s unlike me, I know.
Yet it was a very entertaining evening. There were stickers issued as you came in to put onto the posters for each new song at the end (Cambridge Analytica have nothing on BG’s blatant gathering of personal data). Then there was the use of cutting edge 1970’s technology to provide the show’s visuals (an overhead projector and transparencies) which had the unfortunate consequence of giving Mr Fisher an unexpected suntan as he was placed directly between the OHP and the screen. There was also the ‘not at all unclear as to why it was never thought of in the first place’ tech of using a potted plant as Mr Anderson’s guitar stand.
Anyhow, back to the music and, despite the dodgy sound, you could hear enough to get the gist of what was going on.
As you might expect there were a fair few up-tempo numbers. The first couple ‘On Post’ and ‘Cheer Up Love’ are respectively pop and poppier whilst towards the back end of the set both ‘The Ill years’ and ‘Better People Have Lived Here’ sounded like songs that would have sat nicely on ‘The Great Indoors’.
Penultimate tune ‘Afterwards’ seems to be cut from similar cloth and it was perhaps the song on the night with the most obvious single potential. It was also one that sounded just a little familiar – indeed the band had premiered it nearly two and a half years ago.
Both ‘Tongue Bit Cheek’ and ‘Summer Cool’ were much more slow burners, offering a pleasing variation of pace, although the former did manage to pull off some fireworks before it finished. I suspect when we’re able to hear the guitars properly it will be pretty spectacular.
There was also ‘Deepest Sigh’ which, in the tradition of ‘Rough Wooing’, very much sounded like it’s going to be Mr Brodie’s song. Unfortunately, on the night you couldn’t hear a great deal more than the drums.
Another song that suffered was the closing ‘Everyone Is Going To Be OK (Except for You)’ which I would submit qualifies as only half a new song. The original take on the song actually dates as far back as the Bad Books days when it was played live several times in the second half of 2012 (such as here).
Whilst recognisable from the original, in the intervening 5 years the song has been significantly recast – it’s gained a longer intro and been slowed down. In a more sympathetic environment, it’s not hard to imagine the song attaining a menacing undertow but again the limited presence of the guitars and keys in the mix left us guessing to some degree as to its possibilities.
There was then a long pause, nominally to count the votes for each of the new songs. But, after ten minutes in which no-one seemed to have shown the slightest interest in doing so, the band kicked into the ‘Hits’ section of the show with energetic run-throughs of ‘The Art of Under Achieving’ from the album and probably their two best known songs, ‘Here Is Too Near’ and ‘Victory Lap’.
It’s not a show that’s going to go down in the annals as one of the greatest rock gigs of all time but nevertheless it was a fun way to introduce a lot of new songs. And there was no doubt that what we could hear promises much for coming months.
Support came from Annie Booth who performed solo with an acoustic. It was an enjoyable performance, she has a good voice (despite getting over a cold) and a nuanced playing style. I’d be interested to hear the album.
Book Group played:
1 On Post
2 Cheer Up Love
3 Tongue Bit Cheek
4 Summer Cool
5 What You Thinking
6 The Ill Years
7 Deepest Sigh
8 Better People Have Lived Here
10 Everyone Is Going To Be OK (Except for You)
11 The Art of Underachieving
12 Here Is Too Near
13 Victory Lap