Lambchop – Live Review – Leeds Brudenell Social Club
By Matt Callard, August 2017
Lambchop are barely here in Leeds for the start of a new UK tour. The band that once had more people on stage than in the audience is clearly diminished. Only Matt Swanson on bass and Tony Crow on keys support frontman Kurt Wagner.
Except, there is an orchestra of sorts on stage; an array of pedals and gadgets and other wirey paraphernalia that surround Wagner; equipment that, during the course of this transportive, luminous set Wagner utilises with astonishing skill and clarity. Seemingly with a wave of his hand he multi-tracks his own unique voice, emits multifarious blips, beats and drones, bends and manipulates the overall sound so that one moment it’s stripped and intimate, the next meaty and widescreen. It’s no wonder Roxanne de Bastion calls it ‘sorcery’ during her crowd-pleasing 30-minute support set.
The audience are barely here tonight too. It’s pin-drop quiet. It has to be – Wagner’s clipped guitar chords are buried in the mix, his voice pushed to the fore. His words resonating more than ever in the new aural space. When he sings “See the flowers wilt in the government they built” during a sumptuous, sinuous ‘In Care of 8675309’ it’s more pointed than ever – particularly as Wagner’s partner is the progressive chair of the Democratic party in Tennessee.
Prince’s ‘When You Were Mine’ is barely there as well. Stripped of its tight funk arrangement, Wagner luxuriates in the most gloriously filthy put down in musical history: “You didn’t even have the decency to change the sheets”. He understands that, when later in the same song, he sings: “You were kind of, sort of, my best friend” all of Prince’s vulnerability, the stuff that exposed all that cartoonish sexual bravado, is laid bare. It is one of the great covers, aware of the original’s generosity of spirit and intent, but totally renewed.
And there are times when I’m not there tonight. Taken somewhere else by the skittish rhythms, the slow, unravelling brilliance of Wagner’s narratives and those oddly unique soul-infused melodies. When the obligatory jazz workout in (I think) ‘Relatives’ begins it feels like a slap in the face and a rude interruption. But it doesn’t last long before the reverie returns.
Yes, Lambchop barely play their instruments during this hushed and devotional 90-minutes in Leeds. But oh, when they do…