Photo credit: The Independent.
Towards the end of their set, one of the three members of opening act All We Are said, ‘This place is really nice.’ Clearly he hasn’t been here on a Saturday night. Nevertheless, the crowd seems to somehow take it as a compliment, and uses the opportunity to scream their lungs out.
Perhaps I ought to mention that the crowd at Nick Mulvey’s gig at the Lemon Grove is the kind I usually loathe without reservation – certainly not as people, but absolutely as an entity. Indiscriminate screeching, the near-constant glut of lurid phone screens, the loud talking through the quieter sections of music – these qualities are often the unfortunate by-product of a sold-out gig. Thankfully, the music is far nicer.
Opening with Feel Safe from their eponymous debut record, the trio’s slick brand of indie pop flows into the room. An understated synth pattern is soon built upon by some ghostly electronic flourishes and a complimentary guitar pattern. The Rickenbacker carried by the band’s bassist sounds as good as it looks, and it makes clear its own distinct role in the melodic patterns bouncing around the room, as the confident voices of all three members intertwine to form something indisputably danceable. All We Are have previously described their music as ‘the Bee Gees on diazepam’, and it’s not hard to see why. The infectious energy of their strong start continues throughout their short set, albeit with the odd surprise thrown in – some of their rigorous guitar-bass interplay evokes the work of Pat Metheny, striking up a charming balance of constancy and change. Finishing things off with Human from their new album Sunny Hills, the band leaves the crowd more than sufficiently excited for the next part of the evening.
Screaming. So much screaming. Having seen a black metal band earlier in the week, I’m used to my fair share of screaming – but not like this. Forgetting my earplugs may have been a misstep. Mercifully, Nick Mulvey dives swiftly into his set, and the first musical offering of his portion of the show, Remembering, actually sounds even lovelier following the din which preceded it. He follows up with apparent fan-favourite Unconditional, and he certainly hasn’t cut any corners regarding live instrumentation. Each of the song’s fairly heterogeneous components is represented well – the intriguing percussion and electronic swells underpinning the song, the more traditional stringed instrumentation and the jovial backing vocals come together and instantly elate the atmosphere of the Lemon Grove.
Not to be so easily overpowered, my inner cynic soon finds more things to scorn, as about half of the audience decides to record about half of the song. There are a disgraceful amount of phones out I type furiously into my phone, not fully appreciating the irony until I’ve finished writing the sentence. I can’t stay grumpy for too long, though. Mulvey soon revisits material from his recently released sophomore LP Wake Up Now, admitting that the relatively recent birth of his child made him realise he knows ‘nothing about anything about anything’, before he delves into Imogen – the musical exploration of this humble notion.
After treating the crowd to a definite gig highlight in the form of We Are Never Apart, Mulvey’s backing band makes a brief departure. ‘It’s just us – finally’, he jokes. I foolishly anticipate the thinning out of the musical ensemble to give greater aural intimacy to the affair, but as soon as Mulvey lets the opening notes of Cucurucu ring out, the crowd essentially loses it. A cluster of phones bobs atop the indomitable sea of voices, as each and every member of the audience seems to sing each and every word as loudly as they can, before things quieten down somewhat for The Trellis – another highlight of the evening. Chilling guitar lines vacillate between major and minor permutations as they snake through the crowd, making for perhaps the most emotive journey of the entire concert.
‘Just take a right from a wrong darling
And tell me how it feels
Keep making it real darling
Keep making it real’
Back in its fully fleshed-out form, the ensemble’s rendition of Myela feels all the more complete, and is made entirely more poignant by the band’s explanation that the lyrics were constructed from interviews with real refugees. In keeping with this emotional sincerity, Mulvey finishes the show with the post-encore finales of Infinite Trees and Mountain to Move. The ambient and post-rock textures of the former are rendered perfectly in a live setting (perhaps Mulvey had taken some inspiration from his tour manager’s Mogwai T-shirt), whilst the latter throws the still-insatiable audience one last bone in the form of a good old-fashioned singalong. It’s a joyous and wholesome end to a joyous and wholesome show – and one I cannot recommend strongly enough.