Live Music + Gig Reviews

Morning Runner + New Rhodes @ Barfly, Cardiff

7 March 2006

Morning Runner Of the many contenders, Morning Runner are perhaps the best positioned to do big things in 2006. The explanation behind this theory is simple; the songs. Morning Runner are craftsmen of epic, essential music that boasts a vibrant, seemingly magical quality.

The singles released have become instant classics, the band’s live skills practised and polished whilst enjoying support slots with the likes of Coldplay and Ian Brown. Now on a sell out headline tour of their own, Morning Runner are tonight playing an expectant Cardiff Barfly, promoting the freshly released album Wilderness Is Paradise Now.

On warm up duty for the Reading four-piece were Bristol based New Rhodes, who sound like a bastard offspring of The Futureheads, We Are Scientists and The Music. They were short, sharp and straight to the point. With intricate guitar riffery, mind-blowing drumming from Stephen Bishop and above all, an arsenal of decent songs, New Rhodes gave the attentive crowd plenty of evidence to prove the injustice that this band are not currently enjoying a higher profile.

Soon after New Rhodes departed, Morning Runner routinely ambled onto the cramped Barfly stage and launched straight into It’s Not Like Everyone’s My Friend. And there it was. That infectious, compelling voice that exits Matthew Greener’s mouth with such passion and ferocity. It was a call to arms for Cardiff Barfly to focus their attentions on the musical feast that was about to be served.

Sadly, to say that what followed was a musical feast would be a gross overstatement. Morning Runner looked ropey and sounded numbingly average.Wilderness Is Paradise Now is a beautifully enchanting, biting piece of music. None such elements were exported into tonight’s live performance. The recital of the aggressive, bitter brilliance of Be All You Want Me To Be -the reason I fell in love with this band – was languid at best and a cheerless disappointment. Morning Runner were sounding like a band who were already tired of their own songs, a day after their debut LP was released. Something was wrong. The crowd knew it, the band knew it.

“Sorry about this” said Greener, “we’re really tired, this is our 25th night on the road or something”. Tired. Christ, they looked it too. Lifeless figures, physically, emotionally, mentally drained. This was the penultimate night of their first headline tour and it was all too clear that it would have been infinitely better to have seen them at the start of it instead of the end.

Oceans was transcendent, and for two minutes reminded everyone why they came out tonight, but nothing else stood out or made any impact. Even Punching Walls (preceded by Greener declaring “This is probably my favourite”) failed to instill any tangible degree of enthusiasm in the crowd, whose attention was beginning to falter.

Thank God then for the brilliantly redeeming end of the set. The frenetic, rousing Gone Up In Flames was at once sublime and heartbreaking as the last vital drops of Morning Runner energy seeped away from every line, guitar thrash, and cymbal crash. Following this was the final song – the mighty Top 20 entering giant that is Burning Benches. This was performed with ferocious intensity and was well received by the thankful, roaring spectators.

By the time the two song encore came along Morning Runner finally sounded as if they were waking up, and wanting to perform, perhaps bolstered by the presence of New Rhodes’ James Williams who had been invited by Greener to play guitar on Them Folk.

Unfortunately it was all too little too late. Tonight saw glimpses of the sublime talent that Morning Runner undeniably have. But for a band sitting aloft so much potential, and with songs as good as those on Wilderness Is Paradise Now, their lack of enthusiasm and tepid performance was frustrating and ultimately disappointing.

Greener’s final words were “Sorry this has been shambolic” which pretty much summed it up. Have Morning Runner not heard of Red Bull?

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More on Morning Runner
Morning Runner + New Rhodes @ Barfly, Cardiff
Morning Runner – Wilderness Is Paradise Now
Morning Runner @ 100 Club, London