Live Music + Gig Reviews

Unbelievable Truth @ Zodiac, Oxford

19 February 2005

Unbelievable Truth

Unbelievable Truth

I must confess that these days it takes a lot to get me out of my London incubator. In fact, if the city name doesn’t have “New York” or “Dubai” in it, then chances are I’ll be merrily ambling along the streets of Albion’s capital city, snorting in the fumes along with the other x million rats who overpopulate it. But not tonight. Tonight I am in Oxford, and it’s not just because that happens to be the place where I courted my wife all those years ago. No, tonight is a special occasion because it sees the one-time reformation of Unbelievable Truth. “Who?” I hear you ask. Allow me to explain…

Once upon a time there existed a trio (later to be a quartet) from Oxford. They released two wonderful albums, replete with melancholic but oh-so-gorgeous songs of love, loss and life. The problem was that their vocalist Andy was the brother of one Thom Yorke. Even though Andy could sing and write better than his fair-haired sibling, the music press were not only solely interested in the older, moody one, but they also actively slagged off the littlun’s band. Said band split up in 2001, just as a London outfit by the name of Coldplay were taking Baby Yorke & co’s prototyped sound and marketing it to millions. Sometimes the truth really does seem unbelievable…

Still, nobody ever claimed life would be easy, and in the big picture of things, a band not making it massive is not exactly the end of the world. Just ask victims of the recent South Asian tsunami, for whose benefit this gig and the Unbelievable Truth’s teasing reunion was arranged. After engaging sets by Goldrush and then Goldrush accompanying former Ride vocalist Mark Gardener, the packed out Zodiac crowd is in a good and tangibly excited mood and welcome Andy Yorke, bassist Jason Moulster, guitarist Jim Crosskey and drummer/keyboardist/everything Nigel Powell like the returning heroes that they are.

The seemingly shy Yorke surveys the crowd and admits that “it feels like 1999 all over again” before the band launch into gem after unadulterated gem. Yes, there’s an expected touch of rustiness round the edges, but the anthemic likes of Stone, Building and Finest Little Space are all delivered with enough poise and passion to make many lesser bands quake in their over-stylised boots.

Of course, the highlight is Higher Than Reason, the first of their two top 40 hits from back in the day. If you haven’t heard this exquisite piece of upbeat, driving yet mournful acoustic-led pop, then you have a hole in your life. Tonight even the band seem surprised at the fervour with which the crowd sings it word for word.

It’s good to see that time hasn’t diminished the Unbelievable Truth’s ability to rock out when they want to (Agony is a shockingly punky rush), nor has it sullied Yorke’s simply stunning vocal chords. When he and the piano-playing Powell do the title track of their 1998 debut album, Almost Here, it is possible to close your eyes and get wrapped up in the vocal blanket. At least it would have been had it not been for the chattering morons at the back of the room waiting for the nightclub to begin. But that’s another story…

By the second encore, Yorke almost begrudgingly admits that “it’s been really good to do this again.” Powell jokes that the next time we’ll see them in this guise is 2009. Judging by the clamorous response to tonight’s show there are plenty of people around who hope that it’ll be a good deal earlier than that. Go on chaps, you know it make sense.

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Unbelievable Truth @ Zodiac, Oxford