Wednesday, October 25, 2006

"No, I never was going to be six, seven, eight foot tall"

King Creosote/Jeremy Warmsley @ Sheffield Plug (22.10.06)

Sheffield is, apparently, a bit of a hip and happening place these days. There's the global domination of Arctic Monkeys, the glamourous new wave sexpots, The Long Blondes, the twisted DIY electro-pop of Kings Have Long Arms and all the upcoming bands that are sending A&R men and the more excitable areas of the press into fits of apoplexy at the moment (Ape Drape Escape, Bromheads Jacket, Little Man Tate and the like). So, even though this was a wet Sunday evening, I still kind of expected Sheffield to be a thriving lively place. What do I find? A few transients, shadowed by the night and one really scared cat.

So it was a bit of a disappointing start to the night, but it got better. I'll admit to not being an authority on either of tonight's acts' music. I know more about King Creosote than I do Jeremy Warmsley, but my knowledge of both is pretty scant. Going to the gig in the first place was a bit of a favour to a friend, so my expectations were low-to-non-existent. This is how everyone should approach every gig they go to, as every highpoint is a little surprise along the way.

Starting with Warmsley; his delicate, intricate songs may seem at first to be hard to translate into the live arena, but Warmsley sidesteps this by amping up the intensity inherent in his music with a full band joining him a few songs into the set. Although his vocals are somewhat strident from time to time, that's led to some writers likening him to Rufus Wainwright, the fact that there's something of the showtune about the songs validates the over-enunciating he indulges in.

'I Knew Her Face Was A Lie' is the most startling of his ballads, with Warmsley's voice taking luscious soars and dips that help the song rather than being just window dressing. The more upbeat, 'Dirty Blue Jeans' is also impressive, displaying a restless energy that most young upstart punk bands could learn from. The twists and turns in closing new song, 'Craneflies' bode well for the future too as it already sounds like it should be soundtracking the swoons and heartbreaks of awkward teenage girls and boys the length and breadth of Britain.

Jeremy Warmsley still has a bit to learn though, with his truncated support set sometimes suffering from pacing problems and an unwillingness from Warmsley himself to really capture his audience's attention. Once he learns how to do this however, we could have a genuinely brilliant talent on our hands.

King Creosote mainman, Kenny Anderson is a slight, diminutive, unassuming fellow. What he lacks in physicality, he makes up for in pure charm though, as he grins his way through a set full of songs most of the small crowd know, but can't resist tweaking them just enough to keep it fresh for himself and for the hardcore. Rocket D.I.Y. opener, 'Twin Tub Twin' is the first indication of Anderson's joy in deviating from the blueprint. The live version sees Anderson thumping his acoustic for percussion, with guitarist, Pictish and bassman, Le Baron Rouge (not their real names) joining him on slightly mistimed claps, before letting fly for the denouement.

The real change from KC's recorded output to their live show though is the dourness of the albums (and that's not to say that they're not good, just not always a barrel of laughs) is dropped in favour of a possibly liquored-up enthusiasm and rambunctiousness that gives the likes of 'Klutz', 'Bootprints' (with Jeremy Warmsley on guitar) and a ramshackle run-through of The Aliens' 'The Happy Song' that closes the set a somewhat festive edge.

It's a shame that not more Sheffieldians (did I just coin that?) turned out for the gig as they would have seen the raw promise of one of the UK's rising stars before he most certainly delivers on it and then seen that followed by one of the most jovial, fun sets I've seen in quite a while, performed by one of Britain's most overlooked singer-songwriters. So the South Yorkshire city wasn't all it cracked up to be, but if they sleep on talents like Warmsley and Anderson, then they're welcome to their ghost town.

Photo from here.


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