Live Music + Gig Reviews

Sparklehorse @ Bush Hall, London

28 September 2006

Victorian splendour. Bordello chandeliers. Neatplastering. Trebley acoustics. Living room ambience.These and many other design features of Bush Hall arenot the kind of things that should feature in theheader of any live review.

Except when the designers outplay the perfomer. IfLaurence Llewellyn-Bowen had been in town to check outthe decor, no pressure need be placed on hisunguessed-at capacity for music critique.

Already booked into larger venues to roadshow hisactually pretty brill Dreamt For Light Years In TheBelly Of A Mountain album, Bush Hall was anopportunity to gape at head-horse Mark Linkous upclose.

Alas, the whites of his eyes remained a mystery, asthe main-man (geddit?) relied on Dave Stewart‘sshades (and look) to screen-out the adoring reactionfrom his beer-fed fans. Though the intimate gigpromised much, sweet dreams were, unfortunately, notmade of this.

Though its by no means the stuff of nightmares,this Sparklehorse four-piece – augmented later by asteel-guitarist – run through quality-controlledblasts from the past and rockets from the here and nowas though zombie-animated by a witch-vetenarian.

An artist of not inestimable facility with mood andtone, Linkous leads his band as though impatient allthe messy business of tour and promotion.

Headbangers like Ghost In The Sky and It’s Not SoHard are rendered free of any decorative aggregate,assuming the lumpen consistency of reinforcedconcrete. With the addition of steel-guitar, a mistyMorning Hollow almost transcends the air of journeymandetachment, but as Linkous seems intent on driving thewhole band home as soon as feasibly possible, muchsubtlety is cast into the aether.

Bulldozing his way through the set-list, the artistknown as Sparklehorse is not quite as we know him.Though visibly no slouch with a gee-tar, Sparklehorserecordings are the careful work of a man determined toto set down a personally representative sound. In thecontext of a live performance, such control istricky.

‘Neath those defensive shades, its easy to believethat Linkous is dreaming of the magic he can pull outof the retro mixing desk he left back home.

Therefore slow burners like Gold Days and Apple Bedare wearied and ramshackle, lacking the painstakingcolouring of the album blueprints.

Weird Sisters aims for a Sigur Rs-styleepiphany. But Bush Hall’s no smoking signs discouragethe idea of any Zippo-in-the-air moments, but thecrowd-response had become so muted by this point, thatthe local fire service were no doubt thinking ofclocking off early,

As Mark Linkous led his five-piece band throughSomeday I Will Treat You Good, one was left toconclude that the time had come to truly deliver onthe crackle-voiced promise. And as said tune arrivednear the end of this particular show, it remained aspromise only.

And ‘ang on a minute, was that a fleur-de-lys onthat wall? Nice touch, Bush Hall. Llewelyn-Bowen wouldbe chuffed.

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More on Sparklehorse
Sparklehorse @ Bush Hall, London
Sparklehorse – Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountain