Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Guillemots @ Ikon Eastside (shhhh...don’t tell anyone), Sunday 10th April 2011

The Guillemots have done a few of these ‘secret’ shows now, with the venues being announced on the day of the gig (although tonight’s venue seemed to be pretty well known a while back). I had hoped it might be Bunny’s ‘gentleman’s club’ on the Hagley Road but it ended up being Ikon Eastside instead. C’est la vie.

On entering the venue we were all given Guillemots glo sticks, prompting momentary concerns about a radical Nu Rave direction from the band. Happily they’ve decided to stick with what they know best - classic songwriting and beautiful arrangements. If it ain’t broke why fix it eh? With the new album just days away from release tonight was a chance to hear a fair few of these newbies for the first time, as well as revisiting some old favourites. Whilst one or two of the older numbers still shone out, notably Made Up Love Song # 43 (top marks to tonight’s audience for some remarkably tuneful singing along) and Trains to Brazil for instance, it was actually the newer stuff that really got the juices flowing though. Vermillion, only the second track of tonight’s set, is a real epic, Fyfe’s vocals and piano giving way to a kind of apocalyptic wall of noise midway through the song. Emotionally charged stuff. Another new one (and the album’s title track), Walk The River, managed to be both insanely catchy and reflective at the same time, giving Fyfe the perfect chance to flex his vocal muscles especially on a glorious but ever so slightly disturbing chorus (Walk the riiiiverrrrr, like a haunted animal). Then there was (cue trainspotter’s list) I Don’t Feel Amazing Now, Dancing In The Devil’s Shoes, Yesterday Is Dead...just one great song after another, new but familiar at the same time, all bearing those distinctive Guillemots trademarks but somehow more rounded, fleshed out and...well, grown up I guess. Fyfe's a natural, equally at home with the raucous (well, as raucous as The Guillemots get) as he is with the more ballad type stuff. Having seen him the night before as a solo performer it was good to see the obvious buzz he got from playing with his bandmates though – a united nations wet dream of a line up...a Scot, a Brazilian, a Canadian and a Brit...I’m sure there’s a joke in there somewhere. It was just a lovely evening. Great music, a chilled atmosphere and a real sense that we were watching the unveiling of some future classics.

For the second consecutive night I was privileged to play roadie and lend Fyfe a pen so he could turn on his mini keyboard. Bassist Aristazabal even asked if I’d like to join the band. I did offer my services to Fyfe after the show as ‘pen guy’ but I don’t think he was convinced. Come on now, plenty of careers have been based on less than that right?

The encore saw Fyfe return to the stage alone with his guitar. Then the strap broke. “Oh god, I’m going to have to play this like a Spanish ponce” he moaned, propping one leg up on a chair to rest it on before launching into a surprisingly good (and bloody funny) snatch of cod flamenco. “Stick it on the album” someone shouted. Stranger things have happened. Whether we ever get a flamenco album from Fyfe and co is debatable, what isn’t is the fact that Walk The River is going to be one of the albums of the year. No question. On the strength of tonight’s heart warming and emotionally naked show we could well have one of the best live acts on our hands too. A ‘Fyfe’ star performance all round.

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