Monday, July 25, 2011

Goodnight Lenin / The Travelling Band @ MAC, Saturday 23rd July 2011

Outdoor gigs are always a bit of a risk in the UK, but there was simply no chance of any rain ruining this evening. Yep, whoever controls the weather up there is clearly a Goodnight Lenin fan too. After days of damp misery the sun shone on a sold out MAC as the inexorable but thoroughly justified rise of Goodnight Lenin continued with this, their biggest hometown show to date, slap bang in the middle of a summer that’ll see them play over a dozen of the UK’s best festivals.

First up though The Travelling Band. There’s a touch of the legendary American country rock act The Band to this lot, albeit with more a pastoral English folkiness.

It’s a winning combination especially on pick of the set Battle Scars, a gently trotting track that neatly fuses some country sounding guitars with a nu folk vibe. The perfect festival band, a fact suitably reinforced by getting their big break as Glastonbury’s New Talent award winners back in 2008.

That left the stage set for Goodnight Lenin. Like a fine wine they just seem to be getting better, tighter and more polished but without losing the playful sense of fun that lifts them high above so many other folk flavoured bands. After coming onstage to Three Lions (see, there’s that playfulness) they whipped through a dozen or so self penned tracks covering all bases from the joys of youth (Wenceslas Square) to “fictional tales about real people we know nothing about” (Edward Colby). Tonight they were supposed to have been joined by footballer turned musical maverick Dion Dublin who’s invented his own instrument, the Dube. No, it’s true. I’ve seen him play it too! It seems that he went on holiday instead. Shame. He missed the chance to be part of something really special. Maybe next time eh?

Missing celebs aside there were some truly spine tingling moments this evening, with John Fell’s “there is relentlessly nothing” refrain for example lifting Old Cold Hands to new heights of emotion. Those glorious three part harmonies continue to dominate the band’s sound though, acquiring a richness and depth that only comes from gigging like crazy. There’s no substitute for putting in the hours and I know just how frantic their summer schedule is. It’ll be the making of them, not only in terms of their performance but also spreading the word further afield. John, John Joe and Liam shared the fruits of all this effort this evening in a magical acoustic number (Sober Eyes), where they ditched the mics and wandered offstage to sing together.
It’s the obvious friendship that the band have for each other and the in between song banter that makes every Lenin show a real treat. Tonight was no exception. Perhaps it’s that old light and dark thing. Some of the sounds are deeply emotional and the fun side just seems to balance it all out perfectly.

Whether debut single Crook In The Creek actually reached number 37 in the Bolivian charts as the band claimed this evening is up for debate. What’s beyond dispute is that there are few acts around right now who’ll break your heart one minute then have you chuckling the next. A good natured (and band encouraged) stage invasion capped off a strong contender for gig of the year. As Dion Dublin might've put it, the boys done good.

PS: Check out some awesome shots of the gig from Shakey Pix!

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