Niceness. It’s a quality frowned upon in the music business. Rock ‘n’ Roll is dirty, nasty, sexy; not at all nice.
Well, be that as it may. Slow Club, while maybe not being very rock ‘n’ roll, are not only one of the best bands in the country right now, but they’re also one of the nicest.
Sadly for Cate Le Bon, the support act at Plug, the band’s audience weren’t quite as nice while she was onstage. Gruff Rhys‘ new protege was showcasing some acoustic renditions of songs from her forthcoming debut album, but was met by a distracted crowd, chatting away merrily.
It was a shame, for Le Bon’s songs are wistful, fragile things and her voice is unusual enough to bring to mind names like Nico. Yet she was fighting a losing battle here, and departed after about 15 minutes, looking understandably peeved.
Slow Club have a method of dealing with overly chatty crowd – start the gig right in the middle of the audience. So it was that, as the house lights went down, Charles Wilson and Rebecca Taylor suddenly appeared in the middle of the crowd and knocked out a perfect rendition of Wild Blue Milk, completely unamplified and holding the audience spellbound.
After jumping up on stage and rushing into the glorious Giving Up On Love, it’s clear that any accusations of overt tweeness are most unfair. The duo can do pretty acoustic numbers, but they also know how to rock out, and considering that their sound consists simply of Charles on guitar and Rebecca on drums, they know how to create one hell of a racket.
There’s also a winning air of self-deprecation to the duo – after asking the audience whether anyone was coming to see Mumford & Sons the next night, Rebecca commented wistfully “say hello to them from their far less successful friends”, while the slow and sombre There’s No Way To Say I’m Leaving You was introduced by Charles with “here’s our party anthem…put this on before you go out on a Friday night…”
There seemed some fear from Charles and Rebecca that the audience weren’t enjoying themselves, but this all changed for Let’s Fall Back In Love, in which the band were joined on stage by about 20 enthusiastic fans, singing the choir-like backing vocals and even bashing away on Rebecca’s drum kit.
As entertaining as all this was, it was the strength of the band’s songs that stuck in the mind. Whether it be the rollicking rush of Me And You or It Doesn’t Have To Be Beautiful or the heartfelt, touching ballads such as There’s No Easy Way To Say I’m Leaving You, the duo seem to be able to turn their hand to anything, and harmonise absolutely beautifully.
The highlight of the show came towards the end, as Rebecca performed a solo rendition of Boys And Their Birthdays, featuring its killer pay-off line of “the bones in my shins are crumbling…it’s from all the crunking I’ve been doing” which she can’t deliver without dissolving into fits of giggles.
The encore was a typically joyous occasion, being performed in Plug’s beer garden, as the duo jumped up on a table and performed an acoustic version of their best song, Christmas TV, which soon gained enough momentum to turn into a mass singalong. All in all, the sort of gig which leaves everyone in the venue grinning from ear to ear, and instilling a weird urge to go round and hug perfect strangers. All very nice, in fact.