In the sulubrious surrounds of Bush Hall, a faux classical venue complete with plastered ceiling features and a red carpet, James Yorkston and the Athletes opened an evening of seated musical appreciation for an audience of ardent melancholic, acoustic music fans.
With his debut album Moving Up Country just released on Domino, this was a chance for a live audience to hear the music live in an ambience that suits such sets as his down to the ground. A hushed atmosphere belied the audience’s affinity with the man’s music, with ardent applause after each track the order of the evening. He and one cohort played guitar, a tambourine and what might have been a harmonium, together with a variety of other instruments between them, and conjured all manner of excellence.
A hard act to follow then, but Tram followed them with their own understated thing, featuring a pianist, a string quartet, a trombonist and substitute bassist Bryan Mills, formerly of The Divine Comedy, the evening’s surprise guest performer.
An instrumental opener was punchier live than expected, the hushed sounds of the album being enhanced by superb acoustics in the building. As an audience including Sean Hughes and Jarvis Cocker looked on, Tram played a set mixed up of their last three albums, with Frequently Asked Questions tracks sounding especially pleasing.
Paul Anderson’s voice, like that of so many guitar band lead singers, isn’t much to write home about, but his talent seems principally as an arranger of mood. His melodies weave a spell around the listener, leaving them feeling warmer and curiously happier for having listened to him. And that’s quite a talent.
The only jarring note was the lack of an encore, despite the venue clearly expecting one and the audience stamping for one. Perhaps Tram thought they’d already played the perfect gig and didn’t see the need to add to it. In this assumption they might just have been right.