The last time Lambchop played in Sheffield, it was at the suitably intimate confines of the Memorial Hall. So it was a slight worry to hear they’d graduated to the much larger, nearly 2,500 seat capacity City Hall. Could Kurt Wagner’s unique songs transfer to a more cavernous venue? Also, given that the band reside firmly on the side of cult-dom, would the City Hall be full?
Well, although the venue wasn’t quite sold out, there was a healthy contingent of Wagner disciples out in force. As for whether Lambchop’s songs would survive the transition to a larger venue, this was a no-brainer. Songs this superbly crafted would play well anywhere. In fact, if anything, they sounded even better than the recorded version tonight.
Despite being very much Kurt Wagner’s band, Lambchop have grown in size over the years to 13 members. Only eight of them had made the trip over from Nashville for this tour, yet had no problems recreating the lush, swirling masterpieces that make this year’s double release Aw C’Mon/No You C’Mon.
They may not be the most animated bunch onstage (Wagner himself is the most lively, and he stays firmly seated throughout the entire performance) but it’s all about the music with Lambchop. Although there was no sign tonight of the string quartet who had accompanied them on this tour, this did not detract from the material from Aw C’Mon. In fact, the lack of strings means that the sound is never drowned out and only serves to highlight how achingly beautiful Wagner’s songs can be.
The songs from No You C’mon fared even better. The more rocky nature of the album meant that the eight-piece band gave the material a more muscular arrangement, with both Low Ambition and The Gusher sounding particularly impressive. Guitarist Will Tyler (on fine form throughout) even indulged in a spot of headbanging during Nothing Adventurous Please – certainly a rare sight at a Lambchop gig.
In between songs, Wagner introduced the band in an unusual way. During the day he’d been up to one of Sheffield’s finest record shops and bought each band member a 7″ vinyl single. One record was even given out to a member of the audience – although whether the man concerned was impressed with a single from a group who billed themselves as “the worst band currently in Leeds” is another matter!
It was touches like this that reminded you that Wagner, despite being from Nashville, knew Sheffield well as he was educated in the city (“Jeez, did I go to school with all of you?” he asked as he peered out into the audience). In fact, he saw his first gig at the City Hall – even pointing out the seat he was sat in. It gave the audience a connection with Wagner that stood him in good stead throughout.
Back to the music, and the band even found time to dip into their extensive back catalogue. Betweemus was dug out and polished off, and still sounds as wonderfully life-affirming as ever. Even better was the encore performance of the band’s best known song, the uplifting Up With People. It began with Wagner gently picking out the opening guitar and built up steadily until all four guitarists onstage were thrashing through it.
They saved the best till last though, and after tearing through an incredible version of The Stranglers‘ Get A Grip, Wagner returned for the final encore accompanied only by Tyler and bass player Matt Swanson. The final song, The One, was dedicated to Wagner’s wife and it was three minutes of sheer, spine-tingling beauty. The houselights came up and Wagner stumbled offstage, leaving the audience alone with their goosebumps.