Live Music + Gig Reviews

Scout Niblett + Gideon And The Shark @ Bush Hall, London

21 May 2007

There’s no better place to watch a band than amid plaster-cast burlesque opulence, under the glare of chandeliers and amid velveteen chairs. And so it is that musicOMH once again ventures into the less salubrious streets of west London to bring you the latest aural delights on offer from Bush Hall.

If it’s a measure of a band’s worth that they leave you wanting more, then Gideon And The Shark are doing something very right. Arriving halfway through the final song of their set, so taken am I with their bass-and-drums only boy/girl combo that not only do I regret having arrived so late, but add my name to their mailing list and buy their EP from the merchandising stall.

What prompted such immediate approval? That would be the way they have had the sense to dispense with any instrument capable of producing a note prepared to be seen on the same manuscript as a treble clef, combined with a chilled out vibe that has the audience prepared to sit down on the lager-strewn floor, and a beautiful noise that crosses elements of Ella Guru with The White Stripes and survives the ordeal. I nearly bought the t-shirt.

Next up is Scout (nee Emma) Niblett, pretty protg of Steve Albini, sometime tour companion of Cat Power, and a girl with the same ability to switch between fragile melodies and screaming noise fests as Albini’s previous students Pixies and Nirvana. She may be dressed like a mad hippie road worker in a fluorescent orange jacket and love beads, but boy, has she got a pair of lungs on her – as you’d expect from a musician with song titles such as Your Beat Kicks Back Like Death.

As collaborator Kristian Goddard sits patiently and a little embarrassed behind the drums, she begins the set solo, unaccompanied on an electric guitar for two songs, shouting something equally nonsensical and profound about a sea of dinosaurs; the song is, of course, the quirky and fun Dinosaur Egg. She has the voice of an English rose filtered through dirty delta blues, and seems to be both touched and disturbed that there are people in the front row who are dedicated enough to her to have made a banner for her.

Her music has a garage quality to it suffused with something gentler, reminiscent of the late ’60s and The Animals‘ House of the Rising Sun in particular. When she’s joined by a thumping drumbeat for her third song of the night she ups the tempo and makes ears ring throughout the hall.

From then on, throughout the evening she transfers seamlessly from guitar, to piano, to drums and back again, sometimes accompanied by Goddard, sometimes alone. She’s not a great musician (her chords are simple and she really needs to learn to lift her fingers off the guitar strings between one chord and the next) but this isn’t meant to be a polished performance and she delivers the goods with commendable gusto.

Her voice is her strong point, little girl gentle and screamingly dirty the next. Before the White Stripes hit the scene, she would have been something incredibly unique. As it is, she’s still well worth the effort to come and see live.

All in all, Scout Niblett is a dichotomy. A little English rose channeling a lost American garage spirit, as if she’s there to be led astray by the big boys she’ll be playing with soon at Meltdown – where she will support Iggy Pop and the Stooges. Do yourself a favour and try not to miss it.

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More on Scout Niblett
Scout Niblett – It’s Up To Emma
Scout Niblett – The Calcination Of Scout Niblett
Scout Niblett + Gideon And The Shark @ Bush Hall, London
Scout Niblett – Kidnapped By Neptune