Live Music + Gig Reviews

Revere + The Hidden Messages @ Marquee, London

19 July 2005

Revere The recently relocated Marquee Club, now in Leicester Square, is one of the oddest venues imaginable. To enter, one negotiates one’s way round tourists, vagrants and now police to be ushered past a velvet rope. Is it a strip joint? Apparently not – on entry into the hallway it could be a multi-storey car park. Concrete walls, unadorned walls, lift, the lot.

Once in the lift, one has to know which floor to go to. Pressing “3” and hoping for the best, I ascended as the elevator lights dimmed. The doors opened, revealing the venue’s ceiling, adorned with many and varied pipes, bars and aircon gadgetry. It was a bit like Hackney’s Ocean, only unfinished – a similar gantry to that in the east London joint runs round the place at a mezzanine level (4?).

The only draft beer is Fosters, and at 3.50 a pint I was already wondering how long this place would stay open as a gig venue, however good its sound system evidently is, when The Hidden Messages appeared on stage and immediately set about redirecting my thoughts. The curly-headed front man politely asked the wallflower audience to “come forward”. They did.

They have a bassist who claims to be a Su Doku champion. They have an oriental keyboardist-guitarist-vocalist (think Cornelius). And the rest of the band have that studenty look that suggests they’ll all become accountants and lawyers if the band goes tits up. Hopefully that won’t happen, for The Hidden Messages quickly proved to be a band with real promise.

They were under-rehearsed if the various false starts and between-songs strumming was anything to go by, but the singer has an excellent, clear voice, the bassist regaled us with a euphonium and Su Doku tales and the keyboard player flitted between personas of punk rocker and digitised techno head with startling ease. They even have decent songs. Ones to watch, if they keep it up.

Revere, who have been around the block in various guises down the years, offer plenty to talk about. Even at this low key gig they have their own lighting and visuals people adding that little extra something. But to the band. To hear front man Stephen Ellis on record does not prepare one for his appearance. In a police line-up featuring Doves front man Jimi Goodwin and the Dulux dog, Ellis would be difficult to mark out. A shaggy blond mane of hair tops him, a guitar is attached to him, and he’s dressed like a roadie.

For those who’d heard Revere on record and expected something resembling Morten Harkett to be fronting them, there was at least musical recompense. In the Radiohead-a-like Not All God’s Children, Ellis offers a study in how to mimic Thom Yorke’s voice in a piece starkly illustrated by guitar, drums and backing vocals. It’s lovely.

Elsewhere in the set, the sheer number of people on stage can’t help but create interesting sounds. Plainly they’re all accomplished musicians in their own right. Violin, cello, trumpet, keyboard, various guitars, bass and a drummer from Brazil surround Ellis like a coccoon, here marking out the aural corners of his songs with delicate notes, there going for broke through a wild crescendo and causing that Ellis mane to flap about alarmingly. Would it get caught in a hi-hat? He’s not alone in the hair stakes. The trumpeteer, with lovingly combed blond locks and a snazzy suit, looks like Paul Weller‘s fastidious younger brother, and the bassist has a towering barnet reminiscent of Mick Jagger with added frizz.

But for all Revere’s many and varied talking points, there remains a niggling feeling that it’s all in need of an editor. Out Of My Depth is one of many songs in the set that should be stunning, but it ambles about and overcomplicates itself with a melange of good ideas. They could have made three great songs out of it – the incongruous ending, with its carnivalesque keyboards, would grace a soundtrack to a B-movie. The rest of it drones past without leaving a calling card.

Find A Safe Place betrays Revere’s (hitherto unknown?) love of A-Ha more than any other song in the set. From its beat through Ellis’s vocal harmonies and emotive voice to the snowfields flashing past on the projection screen, it’s surely the most worthy tribute the Norwegian popsters that has ever been paid. It proves to be a highlight of the set, resplendent with a rushing release of an ending that showcases the band’s many musical talents, particularly drums and mariachi-like trumpet.

Everyone Expects You To Fail and set closer How Did You Fall all push the right buttons, but all at once. For Revere, much more than the basics are covered. They are very, very good. If they could just edit down all those great and complex ideas into shorter songs with more hooks, there’d surely be nothing to stop them.

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Revere + The Hidden Messages @ Marquee, London