Tonight is a night of resonant voices and tonal delivery, not of crooners but of rich voices, with timbre and wordplay. It's a cold, crisp freezing Sunday night as we make our way under a canopy of stars to the welcoming warmth of Exeter's Lemon Grove. There's a thinned crowd at the front lit up in the moody UV purple, and smokey red shafts of light as Dan Michaelson and his band are winding up their support slot.
The man has the voice of a lonesome Brokeback Mountain tryst between Johnny Cash, and Leonard Cohen, delivered with such a weighted drawl he surely must be smoking at least 20 B&H an hour and drowning in barrels of brandy each night. Michaelson's more familiar for his part in the London based country-rockers Absentee. Here tonight though his sound is much less yee-haw and vastly more somber, melancholy is housed deep within his baritone lilt. It's rather slow and sparse, but whilst we wait to be served at the bar he and his Costaguards make sounds that are rather captivating, in a Nick Cave in reflective mood kind of way, however either the doors opened much earlier than advertised or they had a very short set, because once we left the bar to take a closer look, they quit the stage.
By contrast I Am Kloot present a very decent length set playing for well over an hour and three quarters and delivering 24 gems from their now extensive musical catalogue. Whilst the gig was always sure to contain much (8/10) of last year's deservingly Mercury Music Prize nominated 'Sky At Night', there's a decent mix of songs from their other five albums, and a smattering of singles spanning their twelve year career.
The three piece arrive to applause and cheers and suited frontman John Bramwell places one leather booted foot upon an upturned beer crate, puts down his black and white Guinness and firmly grasps the microphone. Peter Jobson sits throughout the show, hunched over his black bass, brooding behind his long locks and concentrating on delivering his measured rhythms, and the unshaven gangly Andy Hargreaves who uses his long arms to swirl hands caressing drumsticks or brushes, and at times an additional maraca or various percussive shakers.
The Manc trio are joined under the red/purple smoke wreathed glow by additional musicians tonight, keyboards, flute/saxophone, and another guitar to make them a sextet and deliver the extra sounds needed to fill out the newer material with their more aural arrangements.
The opening salvo of songs are all from the latest album, and include the new single 'The Brink', with the common theme of drinking and disaster, the strings on the recording replaced by an accordion, which doesn't give it the same soar away quality of the recording, but made it possible for them to deliver the song with atmosphere and intimacy.
Bramwell commands the attention of the crowd, quelling those who are rowdy before him spectacularly, so that we can all hear his rich vocals. The lyrics are at times obtuse, and Bramwell himself concedes, "Some of these songs are full of riddles, sometimes I struggle to understand them." The rich intonation and smokey resonance almost cast a spell, as the room's glitterball splashes light drops across the heads of a mesmerized crowd. I Am Kloot are so undervalued by many quarters as a live act yet the delivery is sublime.
The band strip back to their original three piece, where as the crowd inversely has suddenly greatly increased in numbers, and the opening chords of the 2004 single 'From Your Favourite Sky' gets a rousing applause, making it clear the audience is full of fans of the band, and crowd pleaser 'Over My Shoulder' gets a bit of a sing along going.
There's a drunken appeal from the crowd for 'Storm Warning' from their 2001 debut album 'Natural History' and after some banter about keeping quiet it's delivered. The miter for 'Twist' shows how accomplished the trio are at producing slow tempo numbers, and they contrast that superbly instantly by following it with the brooding, brutal messy paced energy warping 'One Man Brawl' from 2007's 'Play Moolah Rouge'.
The additional band members drop in and out, and the set holds the audience rapt with 'The Moon Is A Blind Eye' masterfully delivered and the most mesmerizing of tonight's songs, although there's many other that come close to that accolade. Bramwell's voice is captivating, and it's showcased in a full blown (away) solo rendering of 'No Fear Of Falling' and before we have time to recover, he follows with 'At The Sea'. Surely that voice should be listed as one of this country's treasures! Our very own Matt Berninger for those who follow The National.
And that's what's so amazing, over a decade in and seven long players delivered, and yet they're still considered on the cusp of breakthrough. They're at least as soulful as Elbow who produced much of the latest album. Once we've settled down for the journey, the band deliver a proper evening of music entertainment and we're taken into their musical landscape for an entrancing couple of hours. The band deserve, on tonight's performance at least, so much more recognition, and sooner or later surely they'll get it. Bramwell says he'll see us at the festivals this summer, and maybe that exposure will slingshot them to where they deserve to be.
To The Brink
Stars Look Familiar
Hey Little Bird
It's Just The Night
Someone Like You
From Your Favourite Sky
Over My Shoulder
One Man Brawl
Gods & Monsters
I Still Do
No Fear Of Falling
At The Sea
The Moon Is A Blind Eye