The Cookie, Leicester
23rd September 2014
Tonight sees The Intrepid Duo back in Leicester for an evening of entertainment at what is a comparatively new venue to us, the rather fine Cookie, right in the city centre. A night of daft band names sees Syd Arthur supported by an unassuming chap who is probably not known to his mum as Collosloth. No prizes for guessing the first word that popped into my warped mind on hearing that dubious moniker!
The Syds, as they shall henceforth be known are disappointingly not named after Syd Lawrence and Arthur Lowe, but more obviously Syd Barrett and Arthur Lee, and you don’t need me to explain the pun in their name, I’m sure. Actually I’m all for daft band names, it shows they’re not taking themselves too seriously, an all too common trait in any art form you care to mention.
The venue has a well set out smallish bar and café upstairs, and a surprisingly spacious gig room downstairs in the cellar, probably with a capacity of around a hundred.
It takes a good half a minute before we realise that the guy crouched down on his haunches in front of Liam Magill’s pedal rig and manipulating an iPad and a rhythm box is Collosloth. The poor bloke stays in this hunched position for the entirety of his half hour set, so although there were not that many of us in the room at that point, only those at the front could see what he was doing. It would have been preferable if he had set it all up on a table and stood up.
He appeared to be feeding a pre-programmed rhythm box (bells, whistles, odd noises, percussive crashes, all via the pads) into an iPad, which he was stabbing at with increased ferocity as the set went on. He must get through a fair few screens at that rate! The noises emanating from this odd combination could best be described as an industrial ambient fearfest, and was, well “interesting” is probably the best word. You wouldn’t want to do the ironing to it, although on second thoughts…
After Collosloth leaves the stage having retrieved his shattered iPad, half an hour or so passes and the cellar is now three quarters full, hot and sweaty, and ready for rock’n’roll action.
Not long back from a tour supporting Yes in the USA, Syd Arthur are currently in demand, so it’s good to see them doing a tour of small venues promoting their fab new waxing Sound Mirror. They file on to the stage and without much ado launch straight into the upbeat opener from the album, Garden Of Time. The Syds’ front line had as many pedals between them as you would see in the starting line up of a stage of the Tour De France, and this plethora of effects made for a heady swirling psychedelic atmosphere. Raven Bush’s mandolin and violin make regular appearances, and for the most part emerge from the other end of the electronic vortex sounding anything but what you would expect. Raven picked up his bowed instrument for the first time on Edge Of The Earth, and his sawed opening chords sounded more like a slightly overdriven guitar than a violin, but that may have been more down to my position at the front and the way the sound funnelled from amps and monitors, and bounced off the low ceiling; it could well have sounded more like a violin further back!
I watched the first three numbers at the front, and boy was it hot. A word to the proprietor; get some air conditioning, or if it’s already there, turn the bugger on! It took a while for the sound to settle down, but with all those effects to contend with the sound guy did a sterling job. Once I had retreated to the back in order to take notes, the sound was wonderful, a pleasant surprise given my reservations on this subject arising from their recorded work.
Under his ever-present hat Liam Magill is not the most demonstrative of front men but his laid back vibe suits the music perfectly. His unusual voice and phrasing is another thing that sets this band apart, and in a good way. His brother Joel is an accomplished bass player, with a penchant for Hugh Hopper-like sounds, and drummer Fred Rother is one of those sticksmen who simply get on with the job in hand with as little fuss as possible.
The first of the numbers to benefit from my better acoustic positioning, level with the mixing desk, was Autograph which swung with a carefree spring its step, even more so than the album version, losing itself in swathes of echo and reverb as Liam asks “Anybody out there, anyone at home?”.
Hearing Forevermore again (heheh) but this time in a live setting underlines its psychedelic jazziness, a sound that combined with a winning pastoral folkrock vibe is now instantly identifiable as Syd Arthur. I consider that the ideal place to see this band would be at a laid back festival on a warm summer’s afternoon…maybe one day.
The climax of the gig soars away into the ether on the back of the symphonic and dreamy-but-funky Chariots which transforms itself through Raven’s keyboard bleeps and squiggles into a rip-roaring charge through Singularity. Most of the time, Liam’s guitar is simply part of the overall sonic palette, but here he lets rip, blasting off into space with some fab Hendrixian guitar at his most funky. This is in tandem with Raven’s acid-fried effects-drenched mandolin, while the rhythm section fly off and re-group around the beat at will; a storming set-closer that put the energetic album version well into the shade.
Of course, there was the obligatory encore, the calming Ode To The Summer, after which we all went home happy. Expect big things from this band!
PS – I took some pictures, but they are terrible so I won’t inflict them on you!
PPS – Syd Arthur still have some dates left on their current tour – see link below. Do yourself a favour and go see…
Garden Of Time
Edge Of The Earth
All And Everything
Ode To The Summer
Setlist recalled to the best of the band’s knowledge, five days after the event!
Liam Magill – Vocals & Guitar
Raven Bush – Violin, Mandolin & Keys
Joel Magill – Bass & Vocals
Fred Rother – Drums & Percussion