Live Music + Gig Reviews

Bandini @ Upstairs at the Garage, London

21 September 2004

Bandini celebrated the release of their debut album, Love On a Budget, in that cozy (or should that be sleazy?) venue, the even-less-salubrious-than-the-downstairs-bit of The Garage.

The headline band was Trademark, electronic pioneers also promoting a first album, but the event was one of the Wide Riot series – the live arm of Wider Records – and it was Bandini we were here to see, having been captivated by the inventiveness of the album.

Fittingly for the down-to-earth nature of Simon Phipps and Nick Reavill, the whole affair was distinctly low-key. The duo and various other members of an informal North London collective that mix and match their talents as required were all mooching around sinking pints and giving their support to Garden, a “new experimental folk band formed from the ashes of Simian“. Except that the band was missing and it turned out to be the solo (and acoustic) debut of Simon Lord – pleasant, simple and affecting songs but not a life-changing experience.

Bandini however, having disappeared to shed their scruffy gear and emerge like butterflies in natty suits, were a revelation live. Now I have to make a confession – when reviewing the album I commented on Simon Phipps’ voice, and I have it on good authority (his own, in fact) that he was quite chuffed. He does indeed have a pleasant voice, but what wasn’t clear from the album credits was that most of the flashier singing is done by Nick Reavill, and as the set progressed that voice got more and more impressive.

They kick off with the blistering black humour of Breakfast In Bed, Reavill’s crystal-clear lyrics essential to the enjoyment, and his flexibility and sureness of tone a terrific asset. Two of the collective are up on stage – Caro looking decorative but largely unheard on backing vocals, and Joe on bass who doubles as the guitar technician.

Simon Phipps gets into the vocals on the second song, and is then the centrepiece of one of the standout tracks of the album, the touching Flying Solo: here performed in a more complex version with Reavill adding a counterpoint vocal line.

Villa Maria is next, and then a new song, Hangover. This has a Latin rhythm, Phipps bashing away on acoustic guitar looking rumpled and energetic, and Reavill cool as a cucumber, hand in trouser pocket, almost crooning.

The whole affair is friendly and jocular – there’s an ongoing gag about Simon fronting a Coldplay covers band, A Rush of Blood to the Parachutes… and then it’s time for the showpiece of the album, I Am Full Of Hate. Tremendous power, even when you know much of the sound isn’t being produced live, and Reavill’s voice really excels here.

The Bacharach moment of the set comes with The Distance To Fall, Phipps doing his Chris Martin impression and Reavill adding ba-ba-bas with gay abandon. Another great song, and it leads into the no-holds-barred finale of The Great Grey Season, the likely candidate for a first single. All this lacks is maracas… but the snappy syncopated clapping was great fun anyway.

A short but very sweet set. Do yourself a favour, and get yourself the album – then watch out for the next gig. You’ll thank me.

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More on Bandini
Bandini @ Upstairs at the Garage, London
Bandini – Love On A Budget