Still buzzing from my interview with Se Delan, I entered the Islington Academy very early to get a good position for the forthcoming show. After about 20 minutes or so, and armed with just an acoustic guitar, Bruce Soord appeared, strummed a few notes, informed the audience that that was his sound check and promised to return very shortly. This he did to a sparse but warm welcome with plenty of people still filing in as he began the short set. After the first number he was joined by his Pineapple Thief compatriot Jon Sykes on bass and backing vocals and the pair proceeded to run through some Pineapple Thief numbers which were highly enjoyable in their stripped down form. One thing of real note here was the genuine level of respect shown by the audience to the music, a fact not lost on Soord as he thanked the crowd for their ability to listen rather than chat. Soord comes across as a very likeable, down to earth guy and he and Sykes appeared to be really enjoying themselves as they played. After finishing with a lovely rendition of ‘I Will Light Up Your Eyes’ from the album Ten Stories Down, they were gone barely half an hour after they’d arrived. The generous applause from the now larger crowd showed that they’d enjoyed themselves too.
For a band that was playing only their second gig, Se Delan understandably looked a little apprehensive as they came onstage. Whereas The Pineapple Thief was a band appearing in duo form, Se Delan was essentially a duo appearing in band form. No less than seven people appeared onstage, such is the amount of personnel required to replicate their layered and complex music.
Over the course of their 50 minute set. they played almost all the tracks from their beautiful debut album The Fall and highlights for me were dynamic renditions of the two closing tracks: ‘On My Way’ and ‘Lost Never Found’ where guitarist and Se Delan main man Justin Greaves cut loose with a wall of reverb. However, as enjoyable as I found their performance, I felt that Se Delan have a slight dilemma on their hands as the power of a full band tended to mask some of the subtleties of The Fall. In particular Belinda Kordic’s hushed vocals, so atmospheric and haunting on the album, didn’t quite make it through the mix at times which was disappointing, not least for her. That’s not to say that the set wasn’t a good one, far from it. I loved the muscle and sheer force of the band in full flight, but the live show didn’t really fully represent what the band have achieved on record and should those in the audience decide to buy the album, they may be surprised at the contrast between studio and live versions.
With The Fall only being released the day before, it was clear that many people in the audience were hearing the songs for the first time. The response was consequently a little muted and there appeared to be an awkward pause at the end of some songs where the crowd wasn’t quite sure whether they had finished or not. Amusingly, Kordic realised this and her clapping gestures told the audience that the song(s) had indeed concluded and brought some chuckles from the floor. Although it’s early days for Se Delan, they are experienced musicians and have enormous potential as well as a stunning album under their belt. I look forward to seeing them again soon, hopefully before the end of 2014 and with the balance between power and subtlety a little more evenly distributed.
For those of you not familiar with the headliners, Gazpacho are six very affable Norwegians who play a brand of relatively mellow progressive / art rock. The songs are unusual in structure because they don’t have any discernable choruses or even hooks at times; they flow along gently, then rise and fall with dramatic effect before returning to a more serene state of affairs.
Right from the off, the band had the audience right where they wanted them and it was highly welcome to hear virtually nothing but hushed admiration from the audience during the quieter sections of the music. Live there is a distinctly harder edge to Gazpacho’s sound and songs like ‘I’ve Been Walking Pt. 1’ are much more powerful than their studio counterparts. Like Se Delan, they have to balance their atmospheric, moody studio sound with the dynamics of a live performance and in Gazpacho’s case they just about pulled it off. Lead vocalist, (actually the only vocalist) Jan-Henrik Ohme, is an engaging figure onstage. Frequently smiling, often seemingly lost in the music himself, his happy demeanour was infectious and I found myself grinning like a fool several times during proceedings simply from the fact he seemed to be enjoying himself so much.
The band played a large chunk of their new album Demon but also delved deeply into their growing back catalogue with the encore tracks ‘Upside Down’ and ‘Massive Illusion’ originating from their 2007 offering Night. There seemed to be a mixture of old and new fans in the crowd, but from where I was standing, all the songs seemed to be welcomed with equal enthusiasm and rapturous applause when they concluded.
As the set built towards the end, they played my personal Gazpacho favourite, ‘Winter Is Never’ from the album Tick Tock. I’ll forgive them for interrupting the song with the obligatory crowd participation moment, mainly because it was done so amicably and was over quickly! As gig goers, we always hope for some of our personal favourites to be played at live shows, so when the band launched into ‘Black Lily,’ my second favourite Gazpacho track, I was a very happy spectator. The main set concluded with ‘Vera’ from 2011’s album Missa Atropos and the roar that ensued as the song finished belied the fact that we were at a relatively small venue. Aside from the aforementioned encore tracks the band came back for a second time to end with ‘Mary Celeste’ from 2012’s March of Ghosts’ and seemed genuinely overwhelmed with the response coming from the audience. And that was it, two hours after they began, the left the stage for the final time with the applause still ringing in their ears.
So, if you haven’t taken the Gazpacho plunge yet, (and if you’re reading this, hopefully you’re now curious) I would strongly urge you to do so if you enjoy melodic, beautifully crafted songs. Because of the seeming lack of hooks in the music, not everyone will get it but for those who do, be prepared, as you may be lost in their music for a long time to come.
Headliner Set List
1) Tick Tock Pt. 1
2) Tick Tock Pt. 2
5) I’ve Been Walking Pt. 1
6) The Wizard Of Altai Mountains
7) I’ve Been Walking Pt. 2
8) Winter Is Never
9) Splendid Isolation
10) Black Lilly
12) Upside Down
13) Massive Illusion
14) Mary Celeste
Review: David Lack