As Charles Howl plays his first headline show in Liverpool, Getintothis’ Cath Bore lets the tunes take her on a strange but rather special adventure.
When the UK summer gets things right, the sun cracks the flags, doors are flung open and café pavement culture busies the streets.
At times like these it’s tempting to fancy we’re somewhere rather more romantic and adventurous than our own everyday city. On Thursday evening, we got the level of heat that turns indoors muggy, the effects twofold: a slightly surreal bent to proceedings, and the warm carrying with it a distinct international perfume.
Catching the tail end of Samurai Kip’s set, the local five piece were described by my friend as a ‘like a Scouse mariachi band’. Half joke, but maybe she has a point, if one slightly wide of the mark. Once the slide trombone comes out it’s an easy enough step to feel we’re in a riotous lock-in somewhere in rural Mexico. It’s best perhaps to blame all that on the temperatures.
One can’t help but feel one knows Beija Flo so well already, what with her refreshing honesty both onstage and off. Tonight her marvellous red leotard and arty theatrical stage set up make for a performance honour bound to be bold. Mary sticks the most, a gorgeously bleak song about a crappy friendship and to be honest, we’ve all bloody well been there. So yeah, we’re ‘chillin’ with Mary….’ big time.
With Beija Flo – she’s easily pictured this evening her in a burlesque club in Berlin – the comparisons to Alison Goldfrapp and Bat For Lashes‘ Natasha Khan are understandable and yet it’s fabulously and wonderfully clear she’s very much marking out her own territory.
Charles Howl’s latest album My idol Family is a tough one to slot into any ready made category. So many flavours within, from retro pop with curious Brel-esque quirks, Velvet Underground dreaminess, and post punk crunch.
Not to forget the waspish lyrics bordering on cruel, both deliciously funny and dark.
Howl – singer and songwriter Danny Nellis – is not an easy man to unpick or work out – we described him as ‘mysterious’ in our gig guide last week – and in step with that, the singer stays largely silent between songs.
On My Idol Family there’s a lightness of touch and sensitivity in the string arrangements and when he played Manchester over the winter, the inclusion of a string quartet transformed the album into glorious technicolour. With a synth-pop band backing tonight, any worries the warmth those arrangements provided would be lost dissipated soon enough. And anyway, who needs more bloody heat.
Death of Print’s organ drama and The Dinner Party’s buzzy synth lines contrast with Nellis’s mellow-sweet vocals and instrumental Fla Da Da is filled out by pretty, hazy male-female harmonies. American Boy, a personal favourite, takes on even more of a winsome Gallic air. But it’s when he settles at the piano the specialness really starts.
The songwriter himself has said as being ‘disappointed’ with some past recorded efforts and so it’s pleasing to find Lunacy, from debut Sir Vices, welcomed into the fold. The song lends itself perfectly to the piano, alongside Goodbye Sleep and Never Forget What You Are.
This melancholic trio of songs, lonely laments, have a quiet power and tonight for those minutes we’re not in a bare brick walled Liverpool basement at all, Charles Howl taking us somewhere far more, yes ok, mysterious.
Photos by Getintothis’ Lucy MLachlan