Slowly but very surely, Nick Talbot’s Gravenhurst is starting to make some inroads – and if proof were needed, it could be found in this gig, sold out three weeks beforehand.
Yet he’s refreshingly free of any posturing to big up himself. “We’re getting the catchy ones out the way early” he informs the crowd, before launching into a taut, authoritative performance of Hollow Men, complete with extended but structured drum wig out in the middle. Talbot seems keen to get on to the more obviously folk-influenced material, that tinkers little with the quiet-loud pattern but manages to make it sound logical rather than contrived.
Said folksy ruminations remind me of scenes on the Fens, creating an austere beauty from softly picked guitar, reigned-in but ominously foreboding bass and Talbot’s softly spoken (and sung) vocal. However tonight he’s having trouble with the monitors – so much so that the poignant voice and guitar encore has to be completely restarted. It’s to his enormous credit that he makes light of the situation before taking us back to exactly the same emotional state we were in before the demons struck.
The preceding material ups the amps a lot more, yet the band, while pumping out an impressive volume, aren’t obviously rocking out. Their studied but intense approach makes them look as if they’re not putting in much effort, but the intricate lines from Talbot in particular speak otherwise.
The Luminaire crowd follow the band’s progress carefully, cutting loose where appropriate or quietening for the voice and guitar moments. “This is Down River,” says Talbot, before the monitors give up and force him elsewhere, the whoops greeting that announcement put on hold.
Old and new material is equally split, with the final performance an extended version of Black Holes In The Sand, where Talbot’s carefully wrought lyrics come into their own. “In the small hours I realise what I have done”, he ruminates, before an impressive blast of sound from the band back up that realisation musically.
It’s all very impressive, yet doesn’t try too hard to impress. Instead the crowd are left to make up their own minds – and judging by the response, those minds reside in the affirmative. From here Gravenhurst could go on to great things – not least the USA, where it seems this music could make an easy transition.