With a wry coincidence, Brighton chamber pop aficionados The Miserable Rich played in the heart of disgraced banker-land tonight: the City of London. They’re touring to promote their new Covers EP, which includes acoustic reinterpretations of Sweet Dreams by Eurythmics and Gigantic by Pixies, amongst others. The choice of venue played to their strengths; the intimate ’70s porno-lounge surroundings of the basement bar was perfect for their self-defined “bar-room chamber music”, and the overall effect was akin to having a string quintet in your living room.
The support band Left With Pictures had been a tough act to follow. They wrapped up their time on stage with a cracking cover of1952 Vincent Black Lightning by Richard Thompson. For this, they repeated an earlier trick of venturing into the audience to play it without amplification, and received a suitably rousing round of applause for their efforts.
Curiously, The Miserable Rich only played one song from their latest effort; their version of Shades by Iggy Pop, bereft of the backing vocal “woo-woos” which feature in the original. It’s arguably one of the weaker tracks from the EP, but live it took on a more distinctive hue.
Indeed their set as a whole, largely comprised of songs from TwelveWays To Count, their 2008 debut album, was very well executed. But audience engagement didn’t feature greatly, aside from directing them to clap along at a few points, and when the impressively-named lead singer James de Malplaquet toasted the audience in appreciation after each track.
He did give a few choice explanations about the meanings behind his songs, and there was a rather lovely rejigged opening to Boat Song, which he dedicated to his mother. He held a music box mechanism up to the microphone, which played a lullaby (Johannes Brahms‘ Wiegenlied, Op. 49 No 4, if we’re being frightfully specific) which the other musicians proceeded to take their cue from.
One of the guitarists was sporting an AC/DC t-shirt, which seemed a bit incongruous at the time, but de Malplaquet has pointed out that “After a few beers, we’re prone to burst into string-based versions of anything from AC/DC to Phil Collins.” Here’s hoping that Sussudio has featured at some point. He’d have us believe that alcohol is an integral element of this band – after they performed Pisshead, he noted that it was “a key tune for this band”, whilst they all reached for their respective alcoholic tipples.
It’s likely that they are thoroughly sick of it by now, but one track it would have been nice to hear was their smashing cover of HotChip‘s Over And Over, which brought them to wider attention early last year. But that’s a minor quibble. It was an enjoyable evening, with a group of very capable musicians at the helm.