Live at The Cumberland Arms, Newcastle
I only catch the final song by opening act John Egdell, but I enter to a completely silent room so the audience are either completely rapt or completely nonplussed. I think they are rapt. Second support E'spaniel are endearingly self deprecating. This is their first gig and they're apologising before a single note has been played. No need really, because they've written a very nice batch of songs. Their sound is startlingly similar to an early (just learning the ropes) New Order, but this is actually quite an assured performance for a debut and one that will no doubt blossom. The Wave Pictures are here to promote their stop-gap album "Artistic Vice", which is their interpretation of Daniel Johnston's 1991 album of the same name. The band have had form with Johnston in the past, acting as his backing band on numerous occasions and tonight they dedicate a good half hour of their set to the cult US songwriter. "Tell Me Now" sees the band stepping back from the microphones with Franic Rozycki swapping his bass for mandolin whilst David Tattersall tells us how they were banned from playing "My Life Is Starting Over" on a recent 6music session due to a reference to suicide. Seems a bit harsh seeing as the song is essentially positive in message (plus, it sounds great). We also get a load of tracks from last year's superb double album City Forgiveness. Jonny Helm gets to sing on "Atlanta" after a recent bout of tonsillitis (helped back to health by the "love off" going on in the room - his phrasing). "Before This Day" gets the full on calypso treatment and "New Skin" sounds more chilling than ever. There's a short preview of their forthcoming ("proper") new album in the shape of "Pea Green Coat" which indicates a slightly heavier future sound and a rousing performance of "Spaghetti" which just gets better each time I hear it, I'd honestly place it as one of the best pop songs ever written by anyone...ever. The band wisely choose to ignore a couple of wacky cretins who come down to the front to headbang their way through their final few numbers which includes a almost-sing-a-long "Come On Daniel". A typically feel-good and effortlessly engaging performance.