Cha Cha Cohen and Machine RockEdit this event
- Casbah, Sheffield »
Airport Girl played at the Casbah last week. I don’t know how they managed to fit all seven members on stage, because for Snow Patrol tonight there is barely room for four. The venue is one of those deliciously cramped and seedy subterranean dives that rock ‘n’ roll should be always be played in. When Snow Patrol vocalist/guitarist Gary Lightbody attempts to bounce around on stage, he even has to bend his head back to avoid hitting the ceiling. There is a way in which this is very cool indeed.
The night’s opening act are Machine Rock, who indulge us with some lazy and awkward electronic experimentation. They play very, very long songs on two very, very big keyboards. They also have a guitarist, but he might as well not be there, for he is inaudible above the drone of the synthesizers. It seems like an attempt to capture the slow beauty of Godspeed You Black Emperor! on SA-5s, but falls someway short. At best it is tedious, as the band play songs constructed from a few sustained chords, which keep promising to reach a climax, but never do. These last for at least fifteen minutes each. At worst, then, this is downright excruciating. Aside from polite clapping (possibly born of relief, as the band leave the stage), the biggest applause Machine Rock receive tonight is for a fifteen second interlude of the theme from Eastenders. It is not very loud applause.
Cha Cha Cohen play much shorter songs, and for this alone everybody is grateful. There are flashes of the sleazy, economical exploration of Blonde Redhead in their music, and with more material the band might be able to do something genuinely worthwhile. During their last song, Cha Cha Cohen even manage to introduce the fantastic insult of ‘you fucking strawberry’. For this alone it is good to have seen them.
As they come onstage, Snow Patrol hand out packets of Parma Violets to the front rows of the audience. It’s a winning gesture and is, of course, marvellously cool. The band then proceed to launch into rocket fuelled versions of three songs from their recent When It’s All Over We Still Have To Clear Up LP; Never Gonna Fall In Love Again, Ask Me How I Am and Chased By… I Don’t Know What. ‘We were told to open with a few fast songs, so that you didn’t get bored’, Lightbody announces, but there was never any risk of that happening. As he plays his eyes bulge and he flings himself around the stage, wielding the sharpest of power chords. It is as if the songs are being channelled through him without his prior consent. The display is all the more remarkable when you realise that it’s not simply being done for show. Lightbody needs you to know that he means it, because what he has to say is sincerely important to him. Any reports that …Trail Of Dead fans were found cowering in the corners of the venue should be treated as false, however.
Technical problems then attack the band’s set, with bassist Mark McClelland’s ‘turbo rat’ pedal dying, quite thoughtlessly, during fuzzed-up turntable driven fan favourite Absolute Gravity. Lightbody copes admirably, offering the crowd the choice of a spontaneous acoustic performance of either a song by Low or Neil Young, or one from the band’s own cannon. A Low song (Lightbody’s favourite band) is selected and the ensuing performance is scorched and tender in all the right places, whilst Lightbody’s voice simply soars.
Once the rat is revived, the band belt through about half a dozen more crowd pleasing numbers. The absence tonight of the band’s touring guitarist is occasionally felt, with the songs sometimes sounding a little thinner than usual, but they still stand up well. Post Punk Progression (which makes use of a sampled air raid siren, officially the coolest noise in pop) is tremendous, whilst One Night Is Not Enough showcases its usual yearning and bruised passion. ‘It all went a bit weird in the middle there’ Lightbody says at one point, before falling to the floor in failed attempt to do press-ups. It’s not entirely clear why. After the final song, Get Balsamic Vinegar… Quick You Fool, Lightbody leans, motionless, with his guitar on an effects pedal, creating feedback for about five minutes before leaving the stage. The remarkable gesture is powerful and sincere, if futile. Tonight that also makes it perfect.
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