Quiet, reflective acoustic music came to Camden, with Neil Halstead and his Mojave 3 bandmates wending their way through a set list of old and new tracks, in preparation for the release of their third album (on 4AD Records), Excuses For Travellers. It was the first time I’d seen the band live.
Halstead and Rachel Goswell, the bassist/vocalist, sing harmonies on far too many of the songs, which on the album sound better for being the preserves of one vocalist only. In places sounding as gentle as a slow number by Indigo Girls, sometimes even The Carpenters, if by country music you’d expected Kenny Rogers or Johnny Cash you were not (thankfully) to have your way.
Halstead is a curious performer, wearing as he does a permanent frown and sporting the mannerisms of Bryan Adams after mercifully being genetically fused with somebody far better looking.
Other points of immediate note included excellent use of a Hammond XB-1 by someone who really looked too thin and a pedal steel guitar, an instrument occasionally used by other, ahem!, country bands. It is an instrument involving two fret boards and a steel finger-bridge-thing, attached via wires to organ-like pedals and played by someone who sported as much hair as Moby. Also of note was the drummer, who played particularly well. I always appreciate drummers who know how not to drown everyone else out, for there are few of them. Mojave 3′s drummer is rather good.
Drifting was the track that seemed to sum up the evening for me, for the atmosphere left me feeling somewhat woozy. Some people tapped solitary feet and looked around to see if anyone else would join them, but most stood absorbed, some even looked like they might at any moment fall over through concentration. And right they’d be to so do, for Mojave 3 produce serious music with some interesting instrumentation. What’s more, nearly all the songs hit the mark first time and refused to be forgotten and one was left with a warm feeling inside at the end of the gig. I think they are probably better suited to venues with seats rather than the likes of Dingwalls, such as… a beach with a camp fire flaming away nicely into the night. Just a word of warning; mind those frown lines.