Live – The Twilight Sad @ Hoxton Bar & Kitchen

Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters was released seven years ago today. Even frontman James Graham admits that is a pretty tenuous reason to take it back out on the road. Indeed, his insinuation that this was just the right time to play these songs again is a far better reason.

It is, to me anyway, a fairly new phenomenon of bands taking old records back out on the road, and playing them in full. I often approach these with a cynical skepticism, would a band really be rolling out an old album if their new material was any good? A quick cash in on a popularity on the wane? Certainly not the case here though, the band could surely play venues three or four times the size of tonights intimate setting. Indeed this genuinely just feels like a band who make albums that mean an awful lot not just to their fans but to themselves.

Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters is just that sort of album; they have produced some terrific albums since it, and look set to produce many more still to come. However, this is a record which will always have a special place in the bands history; an album that took them from Indie-Rock nobodies, and turned them into, well just about somebodies. They haven’t followed the Frightened Rabbit route to international stardom just yet, but they haven’t gone the My Latest Novel route of mysteriously slipping the net and being the great Scottish indie band that got away (a great shame)! So, as Jeff Lewis put it “You’re living comfortably I presume, even if you’re not a household name. You’ve reached a pretty high level of success and critical acclaim.” He was talking about Will Oldham of course, but as a summary of the mid-level bands of the world I rather like it.

So to the show. One of the reasons this particular event fascinated me, was the fact I was there the first time around. I remember the original Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters tour; a young band, new to the rigours of touring and live performance, I saw them at the most wonderful of venues, The Brudenell Social Club. Back then the band were a guitar heavy cacophony of feedback, thrillingly loud, but sometimes to the detriment of actually knowing what track was being played. When they saunter out onto the stage tonight, it is immediately clear that things have changed. Now armed with a different line up, the addition of keyboards, and better sound engineering lead to an all together more well rounded sound. Indeed, as they break into opening track Cold Days From The Birdhouse, it has all the clarity of the recording. James’ distinctive, heavily accented vocal, paired to guitars that chime and burst forth with heavy bristling energy in equal measure. Crisp pounding drums, go straight for your heart and reverberate through it. The stunningly loud sound is matched by a brutal strobe heavy light show, it is so violent it has the audience mesmerised and unable to look in equal measure. It is perfectly suited to them.

When I first saw the band, James Graham was a surly character, stalking the stage; tonight he is still a bundle of nerves, but there is a sense of controlled energy. I can’t be the only person to have noted a distinct likeness to Ian Curtis. Maybe it is the piercing white strobe, made so much a part of the Joy Division story by it is presence in Control, but here James seems to be every bit Ian. There’s a wonderful moment midway through the set when, standing away from the mic taking in the devastating intensity of the music around him, his nervously twitching hands, pair perfectly with the strobe to give the impression they are opening and closing instantly. The stage set up and actions of the band are perfectly entwined and give the impression every element has been thoroughly thought through.

One part that clearly was not pre-planed was his between song speeches. They vary from deeply moving and very genuine thanks for us all attending, to dismissing his pater as “shite” and wishing he could say something funny but “I’m just a miserable cunt.” He dismisses song requests with a flippant “well I think you all know the set-list tonight” the band as promised just play Fourteen Autumns… in it’s entirety, adding a couple of b-side and bonus tracks as an encore. It’s a physically draining experience watching such an emotionally raw album in full, very few people leave disappointed not to have had further hits to follow.

Lyrically they cover a series of tough subjects, nothing here is avoided. This Summer I Had Become The Invisible Boy, a harrowing tale of a boy forgotten by his “strict father figure” and a “loving mother”. And She Would Darken The Memory Of My Youth see’s a troubled relationship where “I’m putting up with your constant whine.” Then there is Cold Days From The Birdhouse, which I have not got the slightest clue what is about, but is tonnes of fun to sing along to, I’ve been doing it for seven years and have no plans to stop anytime soon, “so where are your manners?”

So what did we get? A stunning reminder of a stunning album, and more than that a brilliant example of what a brilliant band they have become. It was just as incredible as it sounds!

The Twilight Sad have begun work on a new album. They play Primavera and T In The Park. Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters came out via Fat Cat Records, it was re-released on vinyl for Record Store Day 2014.


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