Sunday, 15 June 2008

In Concert: The Zutons

Delamere Forest is one of the Forestry commissions venues for their "Forest Tour" of live music from the unique location of - well - a forest. Delamere's part of the tour is three nights in June, starting on Friday 13th June with The Zutons.

Noah and the Whale are supporting the Zutons throughout all their performances of the tour, and opened proceedings. They're a band I've heard on the past, but I can't really say much more than that. Shape of My Heart, as their most recent single, was one I certainly recognised and enjoyed. Unfortunately, that was a rare event.

I consider that one of the most important things in a gig is to start the set with a strong song, that will get the crowd bouncing along to and enjoying themselves. Unfortunately, it didn't happen - and it really took a while to get going. Most of their songs are drab and dreary; and fairly toneless.

Some tunes had an enjoyable tune - but the verses just didn't get there at all (Beating a good example of this).

I don't think it was a particularly bad performance. I just didn't enjoy the music at all. Which is a shame, because we agreed that some of their finer moments were with nice complex Arcade Fire-esque orchestration. It's just we were too dreary by that point to enjoy things.

Thea Gilmore was the "special guest" at the gig, and special she certainly was - by far the best act of the evening. It was impossible to be offended by anything she sang. Simple, acoustic chants. Her cover of You spin me right round was the track over the entire evening that I'll remember for a long time. She made it for the Liverpool number 1s album (to celebrate the Captial of Culture, as she explained from the stage - great for an artist to give a bit of background information instead of just the bog standard "this is a new one"), and made it so distinctly different to the original. She takes the tune and really does make it her own (cliché I know) - the duet at the chorus (I'm afraid I don't know who she was performing with on the night) simply sublime.

It was though, for obvious reasons, more than just one simple song. Old Soul is the well known one, and hearing it live I was just able to drift away. Overall, it was the showcase of a very talented songwriter with an beautiful voice. I was hardly aware of her before Friday night. Now, she comes with very strong recommendations.

So, onto the headline act then. And I'll tell you what about the Zutons - it's amazing how few tracks you actually know by them. Everyone was able to sing along to Valerie (but how much of that was thanks to Amy Winehouse?), and most people knew the latest single of Always Right Behind You.

But - and think about this carefully - how many other tracks by the Zutons can you remember? It's not that easy a task. A few became recognisable after a few bars - even thought you can't help but think if Confusion is going to be a cover of Sitting on the Dock of the Bay. On which point - Confusion was perhaps different to the rest of the set. It was nice and soothing, one to sway along to (as most of us did). The rest was very loud - leading me to wonder if the balance was quite right. OK, I'm sounding like an old man - and you obviously go to gigs to hear the music in its full glory. But, coming after Thea Gilmore, it really was blasting.

Despite that, it was a good set on the whole. The songs are all very catchy, and easy to join along with. The musical influences are distinct (have a listen to You will You won't), and ensures that the band doesn't just appeal to a small section of people - which no doubt helped build a big crowd. It was lacking in some respects, enough to not encourage me to go out and buy the latest album, but still a very enjoyable end to the evening and a pleasant Friday night.

To finish the post, here's one of the real sing along tracks of the set, from the 2004 album - Don't ever Think (Too Much)

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