Live at The Star & Shadow Cinema, Newcastle

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The wonderful Star and Shadow cinema was the venue for Allo Darlin’s triumphant return to Newcastle, hot on the heels of this year’s universally acclaimed record Europe, the venue was bustling. First on the bill though were The Agency who, despite being from the freezing North East, have a laid back sound which wouldn’t be out of place on the sun drenched West Coast of America. And although their slightly off key vocal harmonies would give Brain Wilson nightmares, they do add a particular charm to the downbeat ditties and songs about werewolves. Fans of Galaxie 500 would be in capable hands. Pale Man Made play jingly jangly indie with the ferocity of a punk rock band, in fact, singer/guitarist Christianne Ormston expertly snarls and stabs her way through the opener just like Joe Strummer would have done back in the day. The bass lines hold everything together, complex and meandering but made to look easy by Karen Forster. It’s a pleasing concoction but they seldom deviate from this recipe, luckily their new material adds some extra menace and the odd unexpected left turn to their canon during this set of punchy short sharp tunes. In a triumphant set, headliners Allo Darlin' are constantly uplifting and joyful without ever, for a moment, sounding forced or cliché (their bassist Bill Botting is literally the happiest man who has ever walked the face of the earth, bouncing around the stage with the energy of a 12 year old). They’ve got the tunes to back it up too, led by the effortlessly cool, and angelically voiced Elizabeth Morris (who also adds some nice uke rhythm) they open with “Silver Dollars” and run through some of the best selections from their second album. The set is kept upbeat for the most part with the exception of the marginally subdued “Some People Say” and “Let’s Go Swimming” from the debut self titled LP, which allow the band and audience to catch their breath. In between the music there’s plenty of on stage banter and the band are even cast into darkness temporarily during the outing of a promising new song, seemingly based around the experience of life on the road. The blackout is a mere distraction though, and the rest of the band (drummer Michael Collins and guitarist Paul Rains) pitch in with some perfectly honed harmonies as the band pick up the pace with “Kiss Your Lips” (complete with raucous homage to Weezer’s El Scorcho), “My Heart is a Drummer” and a final cover of The Just Joans “If You Don’t Pull”. Morris takes the stage one more time for a beautiful solo rendition of “Tallulah” and then it’s over. Despite the subject matter of their songs, which is often tinged with angst and sadness, there is a relentless positive energy to Allo Darlin’s music, which makes a gig like this such a uplifting experience.

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