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- Sala Bikini, Barcelona »
A few songs into Bill Callahan’s set tonight he tells the audience a brief story about the last time he was in Barcelona (playing at the same venue, as it happens). He decided to take a stroll before the show, only to get lost and have to be guided back by a local, who he then offered a spot on the guest list out of gratitude. 'Actually,' his new friend retorted, 'I know who you are, and I don’t like you.' The singer pauses and smiles as he relays the anecdote: '…But my girlfriend does.' It’s all about the delivery with Bill Callahan, and this evening he and his players deliver magnificently.
The three-piece (rounded out by Matt Kinsey on guitar and Neil Morgan on drums) open with gorgeous new album cut ‘Riding for the Feeling’, Callahan’s serene vocal carrying the song and hushing the crowd. All of Apocalypse bar its closing track is aired tonight, and it sounds fantastic – the tricky rhythms and wandering melodies of ‘Baby’s Breath’ are all the more impressive in a live setting, ‘America’, ‘Free’s’ and ‘Universal Applicant’ flourish, while ‘Drover’ is genuinely remarkable, gaining in intensity and power.
They make a wonderfully large sound for a trio too – the lack of a bass guitar or any strings is barely evident. This is in large part due to Kinsey’s versatile guitar work, which carves open these songs, creating space or splintering into pieces as required. Seated between Callahan and Morgan, he shares numerous glances and nods with his bandmates; it’s almost as if they’re not completely on top of all the material, yet they barely put a foot wrong.
A truncated ‘Too Many Birds’ is met with huge applause; ‘Our Anniversary’ is sweet and subdued; ‘Say Valley Maker’ erupts into its finale; ‘Eid Ma Clack Shaw’ is wonky, fast, great. By the time the band return for an encore (finishing with ‘Bathysphere’) they are on a brilliant roll, Callahan dancing, even, in illustration of the line “jaunty as a bee.” It is a consummate, hugely enjoyable performance, reflected by the scramble at the merch stall following the show, and one that sends the crowd chattering excitedly into the night.
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