“What a dump!” exclaims Eileen Rose as she steps onto the stage. She’s joking, of course. Sheffield’s Memorial Hall is one of the region’s best kept secrets. A tiny little theatre nestled at the back of the City Hall, this 500 seat venue is perfect for intimate, acoustic gigs such as this one.
Now bearing a remarkable resemblance to PJ Harvey, Rose performed acoustically, accompanied by a double bassist who “keeps being mistaken for Kramer from Seinfield”. The result, while missing the incendiary passion of her electric gigs, was still utterly hypnotic.
Opening with the stark White Doves Awake from this year’s Long Shot Novena album, Rose had the audience in her grip from the moment she opened her mouth. Her between song banter was endearingly reminiscent of Ani DiFranco, even apologising in advance in case she made a mess of Good Man. She needn’t have done – it sounded even better than the recorded version.
Although sadly there was nothing from her Shine Like It Does record, the debut of three new songs – especially the beautiful Nothing But Blue – indicated that her third album will be something well worth waiting for.
Although billed as a Quartet, there was actually five of Lambchop on stage tonight – main man Kurt Wagner had forgotten to include himself apparently. They may look like men who have to come to fix the plumbing, but Lambchop are capable of producing music of heart-stopping beauty.
Opening song The Daily Growl demonstrated perfectly what Lambchop are all about live. On record, it’s a lush, slow masterpiece and if anything it sounds even more smooth on stage. There’s a darker edge here though as the song progresses, with Wagner twitching in his ever-present chair and yelping as if possessed by demons. The effect is unsettling and quite riveting.
The vast majority of the set is taken from this year’s Is A Woman album, and its predecessor, Nixon. The stripped-down band and the perfect acoustics of the Memorial Hall suited the material to a tee. Caterpillar and especially The Last Book I Read were particular highlights.
Wagner kept the stage chatter to a minimum, but he did confess to being “freaked out” that his old school teachers may be in the audience – despite being from Nashville, apparently he was educated in Sheffield, which made this a sort of homecoming gig for him.
They encored with an astonishing version of The Sisters Of Mercy‘s This Corrosion which had to be seen to be believed. Stripped of the original’s gothic bombast, Lambchop played this as a country-soul anthem which was sung with typical intensity by Wagner, kneeling and writhing on his chair like a man possessed. Needless to say, it received the biggest cheer of the night.
There was no sign of Lambchop’s best-known song Up With People tonight, but no matter – for the hardy souls that ventured out on a cold December night, this was a life-affirming evening spent in the company of one of American music’s true mavericks.