Let’s be honest: upstairs in The Dog & Parrot pub – slap bang in the middle of Newcastle’s Pink Triangle – is not the ideal venue for expansive, dramatic music. Evanescance-style goth rock? Sure. Grunge? Yeah, why not. A Dutch guy on a Casio? Knock yourself out.
But hey, good things come to those who wait, and broody trio Colt seem more than happy to showcase their brand of dramatica for no more than a handful of onlookers, most of whom came to see (or were members of) Middlesbrough band Monophobia, whose Amy Lee impersonations came just a few years too late.
To the delight of obsessive compulsives across the room, Colt began in album order, Never Know’s paranoid drone and sobbing guitar licks reaching only a fraction of the support’s decibel levels, but feeling far, far bigger, confined only by the walls of the shoebox venue. I Abort quickly raised the pulse with its relentless crescendo, the pained Andrea Kerr yelling the refrain over and over. It marked the beginning of a trance-like status for the dainty singer; nobody knew if they should applaud or simply lend an ear.
And the beat went on: Fading Softly’s delicate demeanour lent itself well to the intimate surroundings; Demon In The Wheels – highlight of debut album These Things Can’t Hurt You Now So Throw Them In The Fire – did likewise before cramped conditions shackled its vitriolic climax; I Talk To God’s stop-start dynamics worked well, its pointed lyrics in sync with Kerr’s posture.
Never straying far from the safety of their well-recieved LP, the band looked comfortable, unmoved by the miniscule gathering and paltry reaction between songs. Most in attendance, in all honesty, were transifixed by Kerr’s angst: as songs faded out she would grasp at nothing, seemingly completely lost at the end of each full-blooded performance. Unsure as to what was expected of them, the crowd met some songs with little more than a respectful silence. This was as much an art performance as a gig.
The only deviation from These Things Can’t Hurt… came in the form of the assertive Gag Reflex, a track culled from the album before its completion, which – as is so often the case – has gone on to become a live favourite for the band. This was, however, an airing of tracks that sound great on record, and they stood up to the test as best they could, hampered somewhat by the inevitably small scale of the whole affair.
Nevertheless, Colt would appear to have bigger and better things on the horizon: they’re set to fill the void left by Portishead, and in Andrea Kerr they have one of the most idiosyncratic and compelling frontwomen in the business. Hopefully those behind larger venues will cotton-on soon.