Live Music + Gig Reviews

Tunng + Malcolm Middleton @ 93 Feet East, London

11 December 2007

There’s nothing like a Full Time Hobby to get you in the Christmas spirit. And the record label duly obliged, sharing their time-consuming pastime with a sell-out Brick Lane crowd, in from the cold. Tinsel adorned the pillars, balloons floated with seasonal abandon – the only thing missing was mulled wine at the bar!

We even had a Christmas song to get us in the mood. Alright then, we had Malcolm Middleton’s We’re All Going To Die. Not the message of the ‘peace and goodwill to all men’ variety, but delivered by its author with a straight face and a punchy guitar lick. It summed up Middleton’s contribution rather well, as what could be inward looking and solemn harmonies are given a subtly uplifting tag, thanks to a tight band and sweetly toned backing vocals.

Middleton doesn’t do flair while he performs but that would be at odds with the style of his music, and he did well to sustain a prolonged intensity above the constant chatter towards the back of the crowd.

Tunng were a quite different proposition, but were sadly curtailed and restricted thanks to the venue’s strict curfew and some ill-performing monitors. Said monitors meant that only the crowd and Sam Gendes could hear the well-chosen electronic samples that litter Tunng’s music, and the frontman had to interpret them with carefully choreographed foot movements.

This made him look like an agitated ant, with bobble hat, sunglasses and neck-piece that flickered incessantly like an accessory he might have purchased earlier that evening from a Leicester Square ‘salesman’. This rather suited the music, however, with the other three more soberly dressed as the ensemble sang in unison.

There was something uncommonly moving about the quartet’s intonations, none of them possessing jaw dropping voices but each finding a depth of expression as they sang together. We could join in if we liked, a space available for us around their warming fire, but mostly the audience chose to bounce to the sprightly rhythms.

Bullets was the exception for the singalong, the encore finding its place as Tunng’s current signature tune. The band may have riled at the constrictions on their performance, but the forty minutes they spent on stage confirmed them as a truly unique band, one that takes pop music as its starting point but feels comfortable introducing elements of folk and leftfield dance.

All four singers clearly enjoy their diverse roles, and the enjoyment tinged with melancholy makes for an extremely uplifting and affecting experience – curfews permitting, of course.

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More on Tunng
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Tunng – Songs You Make At Night
Tunng – Turbines
Tunng – This Is Tunng… Live From The BBC
Interview: Tunng