The Slow Show | Bush Hall | 25 November 2016
Comparisons with The National are inevitable. From Rob Goodwin’s baritone vocals to the slow-burning majesty of their music, there are obvious similarities. Naming themselves after a 2007 song by the Cincinnati, Ohio band probably doesn’t help.
But at their sold-out London show – held on the release date of second album, ‘Dream Darling’ – the Manchester five-piece emphasise once more that they’re a truly singular voice. With an effortless sense of unity and restraint that’s the result of accomplished musicians playing together for over five years, the band members perform one impeccably crafted song after another.
They begin with the unhurried ‘Strangers Now’ and hopeful ‘Breaks Today’ from the new album, the studio versions’ angelic choral arrangements ably replaced by the two guest horn players who complement the band throughout. ‘Augustine’, led by Chris Hough’s alternately muscular and intricate drumming, energises the Bush Hall audience, before the quietly romantic ‘Dry My Bones’ and elegiac ‘Paint You Like A Rose’ bring the drama.
Built around Fred Kindt’s keys and Joel Byrne-McCullough guitar licks, the widescreen epic ‘Dresden’ puts the group’s songwriting abilities on full display – as does the relatively minimalist approach to ‘Brawling Tonight’ and ‘Hopeless Town’ that leaves the songs fully exposed. And the quietly ascending ‘Flowers To Burn’ is the perfect appetiser for ‘Ordinary Lives’, the most powerful of the new songs. With its optimistic refrain of “everything is changing” over James Longden’s propulsive bassline and a lavish arrangement that intertwines lead guitar and brass, it’s the perfect close to the main set.
They wrap up the night with an encore that’s every bit as elegant and emotive. ‘Lucky You, Lucky Me’ perfectly matches its line “We’ve got all the time in the world”, which turns into something of an impromptu singalong, before the moving ‘Brother’ leads into a resolute ‘Bloodline’ – its message of defiance (“I won’t let you get me down no more”) underpinned by those exquisite horns on that rousing chorus. And a restrained ‘God Only Knows’, which ends the show on the line “Everybody’s home, now”, makes it very difficult for everybody to leave.