Being an Allo Darlin’ fan is a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, not helped by singer Elizabeth Morris’s habit of wearing her heart not only on her sleeve, but on her face and in her lyrics. From gig to gig and song to song, she deals in extreme emotion; be it super happy, nostalgic, romantic or heartbroken – and she’s unable to separate her performance from these feelings. Whereas some singers can act the part that’s required from them, with Elizabeth there’s no hiding or disguising the truth.
Indiepop is all cardigans and giggling while singing about falling in love in bookshops, isn’t it? Not with Allo Darlin’. When musicOMH last saw them at their label Fortuna POP!’s Winter Sprinter take over at the Lexington in January, we noted how sad she seemed; there was an air of melancholy about their set. Tonight, though, she’s beaming, and the new material they’re debuting on this mini tour, reflects that.
Unusually, they start off with a track they usually save for much later in the set, Dreaming, which is followed by the equally upbeat Silver Dollars. It’s a mission statement, which sets the tone for the rest of the set. There’s still a look in for some of their more downbeat tracks, but they’re played with a retrospective optimism; an almost fond look back on old times.
They’ve long been sitting at the top of the indiepop league table; the dominant band steering the way for their Fortuna POP! colleagues, making gentle but significant dents on the mainstream indie scene, but tonight is still a big deal. “We’re not used to playing places like this; we feel like a proper band, with lights and things…” Elizabeth admits, admiring the restored assembly hall, complete with wooden panelling and the area’s coat of arms, displayed above the stage.
That nervousness is understandable; it’s been a long 18 months since the release of their last album, Europe. That album was a marked step away from the jingly jangly, pogo sound of their 2010 self-titled debut, opting for a more woozing, laid back feel instead. On first inspection, their forthcoming third album, tentatively called We Come From The Same Place, is closer to Europe in sound, but with a sentiment closer to its predecessor. The title track is sentimental and lusty; “It seems crazy I know, but I’ve got this feeling we’ve met before, and we come from the same place.” History has a similar theme: “I believe we can make it, the burn has left its mark…” a gentle, ukulele-led track. Another new song comes courtesy of guitarist Paul Rains – so often overshadowed by both Elizabeth and bassist Bill Botting, the band’s most natural front person – who takes lead vocals for the first time on their heaviest sounding track to date.
Noting the recent death of Lou Reed, Neil Armstrong is dusted down as “The song of ours we think sounds most like The Velvet Underground,” before they close the main set with live favourite My Heart Is A Drummer.
A two-song encore sees a solo Elizabeth armed with just her uke, take on Tallullah. It’s their tear jerker, and while it’s almost unbearably personal, it’s one of those lyrics that everyone can find something in. Amid complete silence, she herself seems touched by it’s eye watering refrain: “I’m wondering if I’ve already heard all the songs that will really mean something, And I’m wondering if I’ve already met all the people that will really mean something.” But the weepiness is quickly wiped out; they wrap up with one of their most upbeat songs, Darren – their ode to indiepop overlord Darren Hayman.
With album number three on the horizon, tonight was about whetting the appetite of the fans who’ve been eagerly awaiting their return. By combining the best bits of their previous two records, they look set to do this – and early glimpses suggest it could be their best yet.