Live Music + Gig Reviews

I Am Kloot @ Royal Festival Hall, London

13 June 2016

I Am Kloot - Photo: Lawrence Watson

I Am Kloot – Photo: Lawrence Watson

As friends and collaborators with Elbow since the start of their respective careers at the turn of the millennium, I Am Kloot’s appearance at this summer’s Guy Garvey-curated Meltdown Festival was hardly a big surprise. The two Greater Manchester groups have always been kindred spirits and, while Elbow may have enjoyed more commercial success, I Am Kloot’s Mercury prize-nominated album Sky At Night remains one of the finest records of the past decade; a wonderfully accomplished collection of atmospheric, bittersweet songs which saw its creators belatedly garner widespread acclaim.

Expectations were understandably high at a packed Royal Festival Hall on Monday evening as singer/songwriter Johnny Bramwell and his bandmates were joined on stage by strings and brass from the Millennia Ensemble to perform Sky At Night from start to finish. Few will have left disappointed.

From the opening guitar jangle of Northern Skies to the mournful trumpet solo of closing track Same Shoes, the album was executed with flawless brilliance. While many of the songs already benefited from classy orchestral arrangements on the record itself, subtle extra dimensions were successfully added here and there to keep them fresh; notably a French chanson-style accordion solo on At The Brink and an ethereal harp on I Still Do. On the songs where the orchestra was required to really let rip, they did so with aplomb, for example with the soaring brass crescendos of Radiation. The sound quality in the venue was simply superb; magnificently clear without a hint of feedback.

Above it all, Bramwell switched effortlessly from world weary crooner to avuncular raconteur, regularly punctuating proceedings with his dry observations. “There are some songs I haven’t played for quite a long time… in fact there’s two I don’t remember playing ever,” he announced cheerily at one point, yet each vocal was pitch perfect. The diminutive Mancunian is an even better singer live than on record; surprisingly powerful and rasping with emotion.

After the main performance was over, the band returned for a welcome encore, featuring a sprinkling of songs from Sky At Night’s follow up Let It All In – a driving, richly textured rendition of Hold Back The Night was a particular highlight – as well as old favourite Fear Of Falling, a fragile acoustic gem from Kloot’s 2001 debut Natural History.

Neither performing whole albums in one sitting nor roping in an orchestra to accompany your songs are exactly new innovations these days, but with its old fashioned, crepuscular mood, Sky At Night was an ideal fit for the format.  I Am Kloot always put on a damn good show, but the sheer consistent quality of their finest album meant this evening was especially memorable.

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More on I Am Kloot
I Am Kloot @ Royal Festival Hall, London
I Am Kloot @ Barbican, London
I Am Kloot – Let It All In
I Am Kloot – Sky At Night
I Am Kloot @ University, Liverpool