A shorter than usual review because, just as the headliners were about to start their encore, I managed to delete all the notes I had made throughout the evening…
What struck me about The Temperance Movement when I saw them last year was the energy involved in their live performance. Shaun (my lift for tonight) saw them four times on that tour and said the same and we both wondered whether, after ninety-six dates in 2013 and a seemingly relentless UK and European tour that had seen them play twenty-two gigs since the middle of March this year and another fourteen to come by the middle of May, that level of performance could be maintained.
A short set from Brother And Bones got the evening underway. Their publicity material says they are between Mumford and Sons and The Dead Weather, but at least one song, with its rat-a-tat drum opening and distinctive guitar sound, reminded us of Big Country. Overall, they had a raw sound, Rich Thomas’ vocals often drowned out by the music until he let rip with a mighty roar or two. The music itself was more percussion led than guitar led, with Yiannis Sachinis seated at a small, standard drum kit and Robin Howell-Sprent standing behind a bigger, less conventional set of instruments providing pounding beats that you could feel at the back of the auditorium. Regular readers will know that I like to pay particular attention to drummers and watching these two play next to each other, their individual parts occasionally coming together in perfect synchronicity, was a joy to behold. Alex Karban’s bass, played with quiet efficiency, added to the power of the rhythm section, while James Willard’s electric guitar was often used almost sparingly and with more subtlety, producing effects and soundscapes rather than the usual riffs of rock music.
Once The Temperance Movement took to the stage it was obvious that the energy we remembered was in no way diminished. Well, at least in the case of frontman Phil Campbell, who spent the majority of the hour and a half set dancing and cavorting like some mad scarecrow being electrocuted during a session of calisthenics, sometimes allowing just a hint of camp-ness into his performance. In comparison, the rest of the band, including drummer Damon Wilson, played with a sort of quiet calmness. Campbell is a brilliant frontman – his vocals strong and clear (with, from the start, saliva flying from the power he puts into them), he had the audience in the palm of his hand and they needed little encouragement to clap the beat or indulge in a little vocal participation themselves. Between songs, Campbell’s broad Scottish brogue seems in total contrast to the rough barking of his vocals. Throughout the set, guitarists Paul Sayer and Luke Potashnick share lead duties, swapping effortlessly between lead and rhythm and, just occasionally, sparring with each other across the stage, while Nick Fyffe on bass is content to stay quietly in the background, flashy smiles at the antics of the front line. All four musicians provide backing vocals for Campbell and the result is something special, a depth to the vocals that few bands reach. The set comprised of ten of the twelve tracks from last years successful debut album and three songs I didn’t know (one, Long Run, was introduced as a new song, written in Germany) it was a perfect mix of all out rockers and slower, laid back tracks, with highlights being the lovely Smouldering and Midnight Black, the final song of a two set encore, which ended the evening on an enormous high, but the audience lapped up each and every one. At the end of the set, as the band took their bows, they seemed surprised by the size of the audience, pointing at the number of people crammed onto the balconies along two walls of the room. With venue sizes increasing and the band riding a wave of success and fan support, I wonder how they will react to the arena shows that are, almost inevitably, coming in the future.