Live Music + Gig Reviews

Cousteau @ Bush Hall, London

11 May 2005

Bush Hall, resplendent in chandeliers, gilt-edged mirrors (covered by prints tonight) and intricate plastered ceiling, is just the sort of civilised place to take in a band. It’s dignified. The high ceiling makes for great acoustics, and a fair few punters even get lovely little tables to sit at.

It felt a little odd standing behind the tables as Liam McKahey and the latest evolution of Cousteau took to the stage for a long set in support of recent album Nova Scotia. The opulence of the venue perfectly suited the band’s grand, yet laid back sound, rockier now than in the days of departed songwriter Davey Ray Moor.

McKahey, he of the spine-tingling baritone, was something of a surprise in the flesh, with a haircut that reminded one of Newsnight Review regular Mark Kermode rather than a rawk star. Even stranger, for much of what followed, the singer’s delivery seemed concentrated to the wings rather than over the heads of the seated throng before him.

This oblique way of delivering lines did not in any way detract from the songs – catchy forthcoming single Sadness felt unusual midway through the set rather than at the start or ending, but was nonetheless a radio-friendly slice of considerable gusto. The long, dark and rambling Black Heart Of Mine, a personal favourite on the new album, emphasised McKahey’s sublime delivery. And Pia, the band’s most Scott Walker circa Tilt moment, beguiled.

A couple of oldies were aired – none from 2001’s Sirena, interestingly – including Fire, Your Day Will Come and Last Good Day Of The Year. There were even audience members who recognised them. But, as time ticked on, those relying on trains for homeward journeys had to leave. Still the band played on. It wasn’t that the set was especially lingering – though it was far from short either – but they had started very late. Almost as though they were enjoying it so much they didn’t want to stop, Cousteau eventually ran out of time entirely.

Those who stuck with it were rewarded with Nova Scotia’s reflective closer Happening as a second encore. Calm, chilled songs – competing with public transport practicalities. But for those who stayed, more than the band’s fanbase was pleased with Cousteau’s set tonight.

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More on Cousteau
Cousteau @ Bush Hall, London
Cousteau – Nova Scotia
Cousteau – Sirena