Live at The Ritz, Manchester: 15 February, 2013
This felt like a homecoming gig, though I Am Kloot never went away.
It is a rare thing to watch a band one has followed for over a decade and be equally thrilled to hear new stuff as one is to sing along to old favourites. Though their debut album Natural History will probably always be my favourite (as nothing can realistically compete with a soundtrack to memories of a younger self) I actually think John Bramwell is now twice the songwriter he was in those days. Hearing the trio perform Proof made the hairs on my neck stand up, but I’ve always felt there was a certain “that’ll do” philosophy to Bramwell’s lyrics back then that led to repeating the same (admittedly brilliant) verse again and again. The songs on the last two albums show a more considered writer, exploring and developing ideas rather than just firing them out at random. It was a real pleasure watching a concert that so deftly presented their old and new material to such dazzling effect. Twist still has the same desperate menacing beauty as it did in 2001, while new numbers Hold Back The Night and These Days Are Mine from this year’s Let It All In LP are nothing short of epic.
I gather Thursday’s crowd were a lot better behaved than us. But it will always and ever be thus that a Friday audience contains a higher proportion of drunks happy to talk through a show they’ve spent twenty quid to see. Though Bramwell asked the audience to shut up for the quiet numbers (echoed by a terrifying chorus of “Yeah, you bastards!” from the more earnest and devout members of the audience) the performance was never derailed by the murmurs of the indifferent. Any band born out of the Manchester music circuit quickly learns to either tame a noisy crowd or develop a thick skin.
The same cannot be said for support act Jesca Hoop. I was looking forward to seeing her live but unfortunately her set seemed stifled at birth. The sound was muddy at best, prompting me to suspect the technical crew were snoozing through what they felt was a lesser artist (though her champion and Kloot friend/producer Guy Garvey would certainly disagree). This was a great shame but hardly unprecedented. I’ll definitely be seeking her out on a more appropriate bill in the future to see what she’s really capable of.
But Kloot sounded wonderful. This is a band that just gets better and better, every one of their thirteen years on the road contributing to a tightness and intuitiveness that you just can’t fake. They use their session musicians to great effect on what Bramwell calls “the elaborate numbers”, but my favourite moments were when they stripped back to the old three piece line-up. This group knows the value of space in an arrangement, not a single phrase or riff is superfluous here.
I Am Kloot are more than just one of my favourite bands, they also give me a lot of hope. For one thing they are a bunch of guys in their forties who are only just achieving the kind of success that was always due to them. In the context of the music industries, this is the stuff of fairy tales. But more importantly, they lack the complacency of so many artists that came out of post Brit-Pop Manchester. You won’t see a Badly Drawn Boy style hissy fit at one of their concerts. They work hard, they enjoy themselves and above all they make an effort to welcome you into a body of work that at times is intimate and confessional while at others nothing short of sheer emotional catharsis.
Well done, I Am Kloot. You are peerless.