Live Reviews

Haiku Salut @ St John on Bethnal Green, London

12 October 2013


haiku-salutSome bands really know how to put on a show. We’re not talking your £400 a ticket Rolling Stones stadium gigs or multi-million pound U2 tours. Some of the very best live shows are more subtle affairs, like tonight’s outing from Derbyshire trio Haiku Salut, who are playing at the distinctly un-stadium like St John’s Church, in Bethnal Green.

Of course there’s was never going to be an in your face, blow out sort of gig; anyone who’s heard their debut album Tricolore, released by indie label How Does It Feel To Be Loved? – run by the brains behind the indiepop/soul club night of the same name – back in March, will vouch for that. It’s a gorgeously intricate,
studious record, entirely instrumental, with strong accordions and fluttering piano, and it’s an absolute joy. Translating such a labour intensive record (the band’s three members flit between an army of instruments, each enviously competent across the board) on to the stage was always going to be a challenge, and while any Haiku Salut show is an experience to savour, this is the show their growing legion of fans have been looking forward to.

It’s only the third – and rumoured last – time that they’ve tried this, but, despite the aforementioned abundance of instruments and necessary leaping about the stage, it works seamlessly. A collection of vintage lamps of varying sizes is scattered around the front of the church and flick on and off in time to the music. How it’s done leaves most of the audience scratching their heads and trying to work it all out as they file out of the church an hour or so later, but during the show they’re happy to sit in awe as a chap with a Mac taps away, leading the light orchestra.

The lamps fizz, surging with electricity, providing an atmospheric canvas for the band to work with. It may be entirely instrumental – the girls don’t utter a word throughout the show – but Tricolore, and the new track that makes its way onto the set list, is packed with personality. It echoes the likes of Mum and Yann Tierson, who famously soundtracked twee, feel good flick Amelie. It’s got that same Parisian charm; it slowly weaves layers of subtle drama. And it’s fascinating to watch, as all three switch and swap, taking turns to play guitar, accordion, glockenspiel, synthesiser, percussion, trumpet, keyboard and some gentle electronics via laptop. A highlight comes courtesy of a grand piano, which they leave the stage to share, variously hammering and licking the keys. And all the while, lights flicker around them; it’s intoxicating stuff and the crowd watches in complete silence, the only noise coming from the make shift bar, run by members of the church congregation.

The show is a sell out, but they could easily have sold more tickets. Wisely – knowing that the visuals of tonight’s show were key – they restricted the number of tickets on sale, meaning that the bane of gig goers’ lives – the pillar or awkwardly placed pew – aren’t an issue tonight. But the shrunken audience make a racket when the band leave the stage, calling for an encore. After a long pause they return, but only to shrug and mouth bashful apologies. They haven’t got any more songs. But what they do have was plenty enough – who needs arena shows when you can get all of this for a fiver in an east end church?


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Haiku Salut @ St John on Bethnal Green, London


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