At the 10th birthday of the Buffalo Bar, and the launch of Art Brut’s fourth album, most people seemed to be at least part way through the process of getting drunk. The members of Art Brut mingled with the assembled crowd, mostly around the bar area or standing amongst plentiful balloons. A good time was being had by all. But people had come to the Buffalo Bar to see Art Brut play, and they expectantly formed up in waiting.
Dutifully the band took to the stage, gave the audience a brief enthusiastic wave and began to play, Eddie Argos leaping out moments later. The first half of the set was a run through of their new album Brilliant! Tragic!, and it was well received. The band played the new songs with as much gusto as could be expected considering their inexperience with the material, and the audience seemed to enjoy what they were given. Eddie and the gang didn’t seem overly comfortable with the new material, despite its relative strength, occasionally forgetting the odd lyric, and never really managing to get into full swing. They couldn’t really do anything but play the music as it appears on the record, and much of the considerable strength of Art Brut as a live act comes from their ability to deviate from the set script and provide audiences with something personal and special.
Even so, they held up remarkably well. Songs such as Bad Comedian, Axl Rose and Ice Hockey proved to be crowed pleasers, even though the near entirety of the audience was not familiar with any of the material (promo copies had only been sent out to the very minimal press attending this gig). The album turned out well in a live context, with the increased the vigour and energy brought by the live performance making everything seem so much better (not that the songs are at all bad on record). Despite this, the first half seemed somewhat muted and tame to what audiences have been trained to expect from a Art Brut performance, and the band left the stage calmly informing us they would return in half an hour.
When they returned they were anything but muted or tame. Opening with the intro to Paradise City, before aggressively segwaying into Formed A Band, Art Brut began a popular, exhausting set. Taking requests throughout, on the basis of bribes or words shouted into Eddie’s face, the band played a set full of old favourites. Good Weekend, St Pauli, Bang, Bang, Rock And Roll, Emily Kane and DC Comics And Chocolate Milkshake were particular highlights. The band played with their usual mix of extremely high energy, and a robust sense of fun, Jasper making ridiculous guitar faces while Eddie jumped about like a loon, making easy and natural banter with the front line.
They insisted they were leaving after somebody in the audience finally achieved set-list bingo, but a three song encore was demanded, and during it they surpassed themselves. During the DC Comics version of Modern Art, Eddie waded out into the centre of the audience. Detailing his trip to visit the New York office, he made the entire venue crouch on the floor, so we could “go down the elevator, to see where Batman was made”. It was in this final bit that Art Brut showed their strength, an ability to both make the contents of a venue bounce around in glee, while hanging on to their every word. Art Brut have always been an excellent live band. On tonight’s evidence they are going to continue at that same standard for a long time.