Accompanied on stage by a full string quartet, Idiot Son topped an excellent and eclectic triple-bill upstairs at the Spitz. Fronted by the magnificently bequiffed Andy Thompson, who is also the drummer with dark pop outfit Copenhagen, they were here to celebrate the recent release of their debut album, the wonderfully titled Lummox – a collection of quirky, tender love songs and eloquent tales of the city that deserves to be heard by as many people as possible.
Solid support was provided by Moeker (named after a fictional 17th century pornographer and diarist), a tight and cohesive five piece who merged the sonic growls of a guitar with Sarah Rogers’ chilled out vocals, producing a cool electro-tinged sound. Their Matrix-sampling tune Dj Vu was a darkly infectious slice of electropop and was a world away from the next and much slower set by Horse Stories frontman Toby Burke.
A sudden lurch in tempo is the only reason that can account for the inexcusable amount of audience chatter that tainted his otherwise haunting and delicate performance. Facing the crowd with just an acoustic guitar and a harmonica, Burke deserved much better. Playing tracks from his new solo album Winsome Lonesome, the Australian had a pure and soaring voice, at times reminiscent of Jeff Buckley. His cover of Big Star‘s Thirteen was one of the high points of the evening.
Luckily Idiot Son were given an easier ride. Charismatic and unaffectedly confident, Thompson and co were slickly professional in the best possible way. Together with guitarist Bob Broadley, cellist Jonathan Brigden, bassist Chris Taylor and drummer Mark Lloyd he produced a memorable set that included most of the tracks from Lummox, nearly every one a sweeping, string-laden gem brimming with both humour and pathos.
Bittersweet is an adjective that seems to follow Idiot Son around and while it’s appropriate up to a point it doesn’t quite do justice to these witty and richly uplifting compositions. These are songs that take you places, high above the city streets and down into the dark nooks of your psyche.
The intimate Spitz had been decked out in fairy lights for the evening and a rough semi-circle of tables and chairs had been scattered in front of the stage, adding to the compact venue’s relaxed, sociable atmosphere. With an affable on-stage presence, blazer-clad Thompson joked about his day job as a “corporate whore” and displayed a charmingly self-deprecating attitude. The music however, and the eventual silencing of even the bar-bound members of the audience, spoke for itself.
Thompson possesses a strong, clear voice capable of conveying pain and disdain with equal clarity and his skills as a songwriter are equally evident. Even the band’s more minimalist numbers were agreeably intimate and complex affairs. And when they were in full flow, as on Emily, I have A Plan and the soaring orchestral finale to Summer House, even the most vocal members of the audience were compelled to shut up and give Idiot Son their full attention.