Cocteau Twins’ Robin Guthrie and Ride’s Mark Gardner serve up timely reminders of their former glories while presenting rich offerings from the present, Getintothis’ Jamie Bowman revels in their spectral soundscapes.
There’s a delicious irony in the fact tonight’s sparsely populated gig is taking place on the same night as the much heralded NME showcase just up the road.
Over 20 years ago playing to packed out venues while enjoying the sponsorship of an adoring music press was the norm for tonight’s opening act, Mark Gardener.
As frontman with Thames Valley heroes Ride, Gardener and chums brought melody, harmonies and great cheekbones to the world of indie rock back
in the early 90s.
For a brief time they were genuine phenomena: all top ten hits, sold out Brixton Academies and genuine heart throbs when, in a time before Britpop, that actually meant something.
It’s quite sad then to see,Gardener, minus that floppy fringe, wander on to the stage to a smattering of applause. What follows, however, is a delight as the former shoegazer produces a confident set of acoustic dreaminess. Shorn of Ride‘s coating of feedback, Gardener backs himself on dual looped mics and a couple of effects pedals, allowing the songs to breathe.
He’s not lost none of his boyish charm either: remembering good times spent in Liverpool and apologising for the huskiness of his voice, it’s hard not to warm for a time when bashfulness rather than arrogance was the indie stereotype.
New songs like Story of the Eye and Gravity Flow show Gardener’s melodic talent is still intact while Polar Bear from 1991’s classic
Nowhere album is a welcome blast from the past.
It’s all set up for a frenzied yet tender thrash through Ride‘s classic Vapor Trail, a song so beautiful it’s a tragedy there’s not more people here to hear it.
On a dream night for shoegaze fetishists another former NME fave follows Gardener onto the Eric’s stage.
Although not as recognised or lauded as fellow 80s indie icons like Johnny Marr or Robert Smith, in his own way Robin Guthrie‘s work with the Cocteau Twins was just as important.
The big Scotsman’s chiming guitar sound was copied by a generation of sensitive dreamers while the Cocteau’s singer, and Guthrie’s former partner, Liz Fraser became an icon for every ethereal female whose ever wanted to front a band.
These days Guthrie himself is fronting the simply named Robin Guthrie Trio who purvey a suprisingly noisy brand of ambient soundscapes.
At times it approaches My Bloody Valentine style potency but equally enjoyable are the spectral soundscapes which create an Eno-esque sense of warm calm.
Gardener joins his fellow noisenik on stage for the encore and the pair build a hugely satisfying droney crescendo. The NME readers of today don’t know what they’re missing.