Live Music Reviews

Lambchop @ Arts Centre, Warwick

3 May 2002

Poor Thomas Hansen. Though once a postman, the man whocalls himself St Thomas now has a better, but morethankless job. Tonight, he played lovely songs, withwhat he said in between numbers being both sweet andhysterically funny.

At the end of his half-hour set, Iwas struck by how great his songs had been, how muchhe had improved since releasing his debut album I’mComing Home, how much he had made melaugh. Yet ultimately his unassuming charm, wonderfulthough it was, was completely eclipsed by what cameafter.

Following the interval after St Thomas’ set,Lambchop’s Tony Crow walks out on stage, sits down athis piano and begins to play. Gradually, he is joinedby the twelve remaining members of the band. Theystart to play, Kurt Wagner, sporting his trademarkbaseball cap, clasping his guitar and huddling next tothe microphone.

Their first song, The Daily Growl,the opening track from their latest album Is AWoman, is upon us. The magic has begun.When I was 14, I went to see REM, supported by Belly,Spearhead and The Cranberries. It was my first gig, amassive and unforgettable experience. I thought thatnothing could match it. But seeing Lambchop tonighthas done that, and more. For nearly two hours, thewhole of the Butterworth Hall in the Warwick ArtsCentre sat entranced. What we watched was somethingtruly special.

Since the breakthrough success of their album Nixonin 2000, Lambchop have been on a different level toeverybody else. Their recently released follow-up, IsA Woman, is a glorious album, yet seeing Lambchoplive is an even richer experience. While you mightexpect a thirteen-piece band to be loud, it is quitethe opposite; instead, they use their numbers tocreate intricate and subtly layered songs.

Havingplayed so much together, they have developed aninstinctive understanding of each other’s playing thatis unmatched. They are not so much musicians in aband, but all parts of one incredible living organism.Someone once told me that seeing Jeff Buckley playconfirmed for him the existence of God. Well, for me,tonight’s gig is the closest I have ever come tohaving a religious experience.

Playing a set that wasmostly made up of songs from the new album, Lambchopfilled every soul and every part of the hall withtheir transcendent sound. The middle two songs oftheir set, Catapillar and, from the Nixon album,You Masculine You, showed the band at their verybest. The two biggest songs they played, on ‘YouMasculine You Wagner howls as his band create athunderous sound, music entirely fuelled by passion,while Catapillar, which they followed this with, wasmore restrained, but no less powerful.

Holy Nashvillezephyrs, they blew every person in the audience away.In the seats directly front of me, a woman restedher head gently on her husband’s shoulder. I thinkeverybody felt that closeness, that something specialthat only this band can create. It’s something to dowith the ethereal beauty of their music, the love theyso obviously put into every note. Tonight I ran out ofsuperlatives to describe Lambchop. Quite simply, thereare no words that can do justice to this band,bringers of the gentle revolution.

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