by C. Familton
Lawrence Arabia (James Milne) was in town to do some pre-promotion for his about to be released new album The Sparrow but up first were locals Bearhug who greatly impressed with their interweaving guitar sound and a nice handle on group dynamics. They are a fairly unassuming bunch but their music made a statement by filling the room with Pavement-like chord changes and a bright energy that still retained the type of melancholia that was such a hallmark or 90s college rock or latter day Flying Nun bands. They had a freshly minted bassist standing in but there were no signs of new blood nerves or mistakes as they built up a nice rapport with the crowd with songs like Angeline from their debut album Bill, Dance, Shiner.
Lawrence Arabia has always walked the tightrope between fey indie retro pop and more astute classic pop rock styles. His new songs show he has taken a large step toward the latter with a set that leant heavily on the new album The Sparrow plus earlier favourites like Apple Pie Bed. Milne’s backing band are his not so secret weapon, such is their ability to allow space and poise in the songs. His bassist was the anchor with his Hofner bass pulsing and rolling out low slung rhythms and melodies with brilliant economy. Having a multi-instrumentalist always amplifies a band’s options and Milne’s sidekick showed an impressive ability on violin, saxophone, keys and vocals. The Sparrow features strings across many tracks so it was great to see the same treatment given to the songs in their live form, being so central to the mood of the music. The highlights included Travelling Shoes, The folky The Listening Times, the playful jerkiness of The 03 and The smoky jazz wanderings of The Bisexual. Perhaps the most enjoyable facet of their performance was the vocal interplay within the group. The three singers melded beautifully with doo wop synchronicity, all warm and enveloping both amid the music and even more so when they stopped playing and let their voices serenade the audience as they did at the end of the set. It was nice to see a band so faithfully recreate an album on stage both in mood and playing proficiency. Hopefully Lawrence Arabia will be back soon to treat more people to his heady pop explorations.
this review was first published in Drum Media