Thursday, February 11, 2010

Midlake at Amsterdam's Paradiso

Last night Texan classic rock revivalists Midlake (interview below) rolled into town. With the band running late, a few of us lucky early ones snuck in and caught their sound-check just before the doors actually opened. It was interesting to watch with the lights on - kinda like sex, there's definitely something missing - and I'm pretty sure they hadn't applied their onstage-beards yet.

A sold out show at the Paradiso promised an enthusiastic crowd while an album just released, The Courage of Others suggested there'd be a mix of new and old songs, for better or for worse.
Midlake came to prominence with 2006's The Trials of Van Occupanther (was he Dutch?) an instant indie classic for both you and yer old man, conjuring the spirits of Crosby Stills & Nash, Neil Young's Harvest-era, Fleetwood Mac and a touch, dare I say, of the Eagles - 'forrest rock' as my girlfriend, Liz calls it.

Last night, the shows' standouts came from said first album, the likes of 'Young Bride', 'Head Home' and the gem 'Roscoe' were all crowd favourites with a rocking end to 'Head Home' courtesy of drummer McKenzie Smith. Likewise, their encore 'Branches' was from Van Occupanther, and a mellow closure to the evening.
At the end of the show the band were openly blown away when the house lights went on to reveal three tiers of fans in rapturous applause.

Maybe that's because the band knew what I knew; where the old songs rocked, the new songs felt awash in sameness. Since Van Occupanther we've seen a swag of fellow vintage rockers lathered with smooth folk vocals and harmonies, check shirts and beards. None derivative, all bring something new to the table (or take away) - the likes of Fleet Foxes, Bon Ivor and Local Natives.
Understandably, in an attempt to distance themselves from the sound, or more appropriately, three more years of touring the same style of songs, Midlake have moved from forrest rock to druid-folk, especially if we're going off their album covers; American woodland the former, robes and celtic symbolism the latter.

The move to British folk territory on The Courage of Others seems to have payed off as well as Michael Jordan's to baseball. Instead of my Dad's Neil Young records I hear my mum's Steeleye Span records. Fair play, they give it ago and have mastered the sound but at what point might one think 'maybe four guitars are too many?' There's also more flute than you can chuck an Enya at. Plus, on the night, Tim's voice was too low in the mix, his mellow tones too easily washed away.

With the best seats in the house (for those in the know, front and centre on the balcony, that almost box-seat part) we were hoping to be blown away, and for the songs from the first album we were by their weaving tapestry and texture. Songs from the second instead blanketed us in druid drone with not enough melodies or rich harmonies. Shame really.

1 comment:

  1. good to read your write up colza. i haven't listened to the album yet but was afraid of such a review - and from a live performance too! I will inevitably have a listen but i know that somewhere inside i will be hoping that it will grow on me like VO did ... sigh.