Poor Thomas Hansen. Though once a postman, the man who calls himself St Thomas now has a better, but more thankless job. Tonight, he played lovely songs, with what he said in between numbers being both sweet and hysterically funny. At the end of his half-hour set, I was struck by how great his songs had been, how much he had improved since releasing his debut album I’m Coming Home, how much he had made me laugh. Yet ultimately his unassuming charm, wonderful though it was, was completely eclipsed by what came after.
Following the interval after St Thomas’ set, Lambchop‘s Tony Crow walks out on stage, sits down at his piano and begins to play. Gradually, he is joined by the 12 remaining members of the band. They start to play, Kurt Wagner, sporting his trademark baseball cap, clasping his guitar and huddling next to the microphone.
Their first song, The Daily Growl, the opening track from their latest album Is A Woman, is upon us. The magic has begun. When I was 14, I went to see R.E.M., supported by Belly, Spearhead and The Cranberries. It was my first gig, a massive and unforgettable experience. I thought that nothing could match it. But seeing Lambchop tonight has done that, and more. For nearly two hours, the whole of the Butterworth Hall in the Warwick Arts Centre sat entranced. What we watched was something truly special.
Since the breakthrough success of their album Nixon in 2000, Lambchop have been on a different level to everybody else. Their recently released follow-up, Is A Woman, is a glorious album, yet seeing Lambchop live is an even richer experience. While you might expect a 13-piece band to be loud, it is quite the opposite; instead, they use their numbers to create intricate and subtly layered songs.
Having played so much together, they have developed an instinctive understanding of each other’s playing that is unmatched. They are not so much musicians in a band, but all parts of one incredible living organism. Someone once told me that seeing Jeff Buckley play confirmed for him the existence of God. Well, for me, tonight’s gig is the closest I have ever come to having a religious experience.
Playing a set that was mostly made up of songs from the new album, Lambchop filled every soul and every part of the hall with their transcendent sound. The middle two songs of their set, Catapillar and, from the Nixon album,Y ou Masculine You, showed the band at their very best. The two biggest songs they played, on You Masculine You Wagner howls as his band create a thunderous sound, music entirely fuelled by passion, while Catapillar, which they followed this with, was more restrained, but no less powerful.
Holy Nashville zephyrs, they blew every person in the audience away.In the seats directly front of me, a woman rested her head gently on her husband’s shoulder. I think everybody felt that closeness, that something special that only this band can create. It’s something to do with the ethereal beauty of their music, the love they so obviously put into every note. Tonight I ran out of superlatives to describe Lambchop. Quite simply, there are no words that can do justice to this band, bringers of the gentle revolution.