Tilly and the Wall
Kate Nash and The Little OnesEdit this event
Man, Kate Nash must hate Lily Allen. Whilst the fruit of Keith’s loins can watch her tally of chart-busting hits and magazine covers go through the roof, our Kate toils in relative obscurity, condemned to a life of being compared to her similarly-tonsilled A-list counterpart. It’s all the more frustrating as Nash’s shtick is the much more appealing prospect of the two – infinitely more eccentric and challenging, and more emotionally complex. See, once we’ve had comparatively knockabout piano-led numbers with titles like ‘The Shit Song’ and ‘Dickhead’, Nash straps on an acoustic guitar and strips her soul bare, hoping against hope that her haircut and clothes happen to be those most favoured by her desired beau. It’s massively disarming, especially coming on the back of the cheeky charisma with which the previous songs have been delivered.
Having already had my musical sinuses blasted clear by the medicated menthol lozenge that is her single ‘Caroline’s A Victim’, it’s encouraging to see that Nash has enough winning songs to fill a 30-minute set – in fact, every track tonight is brilliant in its own way. She’s recording her debut album at the moment. I can’t wait.
It wouldn’t be fair to say that The Little Ones bring the mood down. For one thing, their stock in trade is upbeat, sunny songs (well, they are from California). For another, they seem to go down well with a considerable proportion of the packed-to-the-rafters Scala. However, your correspondent isn’t sold. Barring one or two honourable exceptions, their songs are pretty darned unremarkable. They’re clearly having a blast on stage as they wind down their two-month tour of the UK, but they’ll need some better songs if they’re going to warrant the effort to catch them on their return.
** Tilly and the Wall** are the dictionary definition of infectious – resistance is futile against their riotous joie de vivre. In other hands, such unfettered happiness could be sickly and ring hollow, but even a cursory examination of their lyrics is enough to prove that this is optimism born out of dark times. After all, singer Neely Jenkins had to grow up living next door to the adolescent Conor Oberst – if you’ve heard the Bright Eyes album Letting Off The Happiness (yes, the title's ironic), you’ll appreciate that it would have been no walk in the park for young Neely. Tilly have done a lot of living and have come out the other side still young enough to use the past to galvanise a present celebration of being alive and free. Cynics might dismiss tap-dancing percussionist Jamie Pressnall as a gimmick, yet not only do her shuffles and stomps compliment the music perfectly, the visual effect of a permanently beaming (and, tonight, knickerbocker-clad) dancer going through her paces enhances Tilly’s message no end.
They’ll give slicker performances than this, in venues with a better sound mix, yet any shortcomings are made up for by the incredible atmosphere. It’s their biggest UK show to date, and guitarist/vocalist Derek Pressnall and bassist/vocalist Kianna Alarid are visibly blown away by the reaction from their British disciples. Both of their albums, Wild Like Children and Bottoms Of Barrels, have very obvious peaks, as the band seem as yet unable to keep up their exceptionally high standard once they stray from their trademark cutesy sing-along sound. Happily, though, tonight they stick to their finest songs. For example, opener ‘Rainbows In The Dark’ is a exceptional demonstration of what they do best – bracing, powerfully life-affirming, yet beautifully melancholy. Songs like these are enough to make you laugh, dance and cry all at the same time as they somehow manage to put all of life’s experiences and complexities into context, repairing the cracks and making sense of the confusion, leaving the listener no alternative but to join the band in vigorously embracing life in all its wonderful volatility.
Thrillingly, the majority of Tilly’s set follows in this vein, so by the time we reach the fantastic main set closer ‘The Ice Storm, Big Gust And You’ no-one’s in any mood to question the dubiousness of the simile, “You marched in like a big gust of wind”. Such is the extent of the evening’s emotion that encore climax ‘Nights Of The Living Dead’ is positively transcendent, with its closing refrain, “I feel so alive, I feel so alive!” Breathtaking.
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