Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Stornoway at The Forum - 27th March 2013

The jangly pop of support band, Pale Seas, was the perfect antidote to the bitterly cold wind outside, and proof that despite the cold weather we're currently experiencing, summer can't be far off. New single, Bodies, is infectiously catchy with simple and yet stunning harmonies of 'If she won't sing for me, will she sing for the devil?'. Frontman, Jacob Scott was charming and funny in equal measures, recounting a story of One Direction, a security guard who looked like 'John Bishop with no neck' and a service station; whilst drummer Zealah Izabella Anstey almost rivalled Metronomy's Anna Prior for the title of 'world's most awesome female drummer'.
Dan Croll

Second support act, Dan Croll, carried on the summery vibes which on occasions sounded like a more electronic Fleet Foxes. With its African drumbeats and Croll's crystal voice ringing out with such beauty and clarity, Compliment Your Soul proves why the singer has been garnering so much attention lately, and we're sure to hear much more from him as the year progresses.

Stornoway's set started with Susie Attwood on violin crescendoing into the new single, Knock Me On The Head, romantically lit only by moonlight (albeit an electronic alternative!). The visuals of crashing waves projected onto the back of the stage added to the haunting atmosphere created by the song as frontman, Brian Briggs, sang 'a woman dangles from a bridge on a thread of silver mercury'.

Brian Briggs
Having recently released their second album, Tales From Terra Firma, there were other new additions to the setlist. Hook, Line, Sinker was certainly the most exhilarating song of the set. The physchedelic visuals of
speeding traffics and headlights matched the slightly frantic tone of the song, and the rhythm section particularly seemed to lose themselves in the music, at one point seeming that bassist, Oli Steadman, was going to crash into the drums as he spun around the stage.

It's a testament to Stornoway's stagecraft that they can move from such an energetic number to an unplugged, acoustic one with such ease. November Song saw Briggs unaccompanied on stage, without even a microphone to project his voice - not easy in a venue with a capacity of over 2000. Incredibly, this didn't seem to phase Briggs, whose voice soared across the room with such a power and intensity it was easy to forget that this was an acoustic version. The audience remained silent throughout the song, enraptured by the stunning simplicity of the moment.

Oli Steadman
The newer songs were intertwined with those from their debut album, and it was with much appreciation and applause from the audience that both Here Comes The Blackout and Zorbing were performed. It seemed wise that the latter was not reserved for their finale. Bands often fall under the curse of being known for one particular song, and the strategic position of Zorbing in the middle of the set meant that whilst the crowd were able to hear their favourite, the band were not playing up to the expectation of 'that band from Oxford who sing that song, Zorbing'.

Although Tales From Terra Firma is a somewhat wiser and more mature album than their debut, Stornoway certainly haven't lost their sense of fun. Briggs' stage banter was on top form, and a ghost story recounted from the tour was accompanied by ghoulish piano chords, haunting basslines and appropriate drum rolls and cymbal crashing at suspenseful moments.

The encore started with an epic drum solo from Rob Steadman, with an African vibe reflecting his early Zulu influences. Starting with just bongos, gradually the whole drumkit was incorporated, with bass and keys being added before Briggs took to the stage for a rendition of I Saw You Blink. The night finished with another crowd favourite, Watching Birds. With a slowed down second verse, Briggs played up to his inner Johnny Cash, and the confetti falling above the crowd as the trumpets began to play was the perfect ending to such a colourful evening of music.

Despite this not being the first time I've seen the band play live, their set was fresh and showed their impressive ability to return each time with new arrangements to make each gig memorable in its own right. With their audiences ever increasing as they gain popularity, it'll be interesting to see how the band retain their vitality and sense of intimacy in bigger venues in future years.

To see more photos from the evening, visit the facebook page
You can also read NotAnotherRainySunday's interviews with Oli Steadman (bassist) and Rob Steadman (drummer)

Jon Ouin

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