Black Box Recorder must like the Union Chapel. This is the second time in less than a year they’ve played here, having supported Smog in August 1999. This time, they are supported by a five-piece called The Servants, a band who use a drummer to play bass drum and cymbals and a synth on sequencer mode for the rest of the drum kit and have a demented, possibly possessed creature as their lead singer who looks like a larger version of Rick Witter. Despite all that, they were rather good, our only real criticism being about the complexity of some of their songs. They are not a band who write conventional sing-a-long tunes.
Fresh from their top 20 singles chart success with The Facts Of Life, Black Box Recorder seem to be writing exactly that kind of song. For tonight’s performance, the keyboardist was missing, forcing Luke Haines to play keyboard (an excellent old analogue number from Logan) and guitar. Other line-up changes involved John Moore producing a saw for two songs in the encore and Sarah Nixey for once not wearing a dress.
We were told that The Art of Driving, track one on the current album, will be the next single, a news snippet that produced a few delighted ‘whoops’ from certain quarters of the all-seated audience.
The set, as at the Underworld a few weeks before, was comprised of roughly a 50/50 mix of tracks from England Made Me and The Facts of Life. The ambience of the venue was infinitely superior and the band played almost faultlessly (Luke scowling at Sarah when she forgot her lines and burst out laughing, and Luke really needing more effects pedals – his delay pedal was in use almost every time he picked up his electric guitar…).
All in all, a characteristically atmospheric evening and a great showcase of the band’s range.