There was an unusual air of apprehension in the Brudenell Social Club tonight, even more so considering the Twilight Sad were performing . Having built a sterling reputation for their live shows, many were anxious that this would no longer be the case. The reason? The (fairly) drastic departure from their trademark wall-of-noise sound on latest album ‘No One Will Ever Know’. Whilst no one was in doubt of the quality of the songs (evidenced by the 8/10 it received on this here site), snippets of crowd chatter revealed a sizeable percentage were worried how a setlist would combine older material with the new. Mainly, how would they be able to hear the new stuff after having their ears damn near destroyed by the elder?
Opener (and new album closer) ‘Kill It In The Morning’ allays that fear within all of three seconds. Their answer? Turn the synths up to 11 and back it with the trademark sound. A risky move to open with a closing track but clearly the Twilight Sad have no aversion to taking risks. They deal admirably with sound problems throughout the show, the percussion in particular cutting through everything like a knife, drummer Mark Devine extracting every last ounce of give from his kit. In a touching display of sincerity (both to the audience and the material) singer James Graham comes down into the crowd to sing ‘Cold Days In The Birdhouse’, opining that “This song is really important to me and I don’t want to fuck it up”. To still have that level of love for an old song speaks volumes. It’s also hard not to find the irony in his impassioned singing of the refrain ‘Where are your manners’ whilst people are taking flash photos on their smartphones mere inches from his face. Graham’s live performances are as unique and as unrelenting as his vocals, to the point where some even find it uncomfortable to watch. To this writer, his similarities with alt comedian Mitch Hedberg are staggering: he looks petrified of performing, his eyes screwed tightly shut as he sings, often not even facing the audience at all. When adlibbing with the crowd between songs it becomes obvious where the fragility in the Twilight Sad’s music comes from. During ‘Reflection Of The Television’ in particular he seems to become almost possessed, wide eyed and his voice cracking slightly as he bellows the vocal.
What’s remarkable is just how well the new material is integrated with the old throughout, the setlist has a correlation and flow to it. The only omission of note would be excellent single ‘The Wrong Car’, a real shame. After penultimate track ‘And She Would Darken The Memory’, Graham’s heartfelt thanks to the audience make it appear as if he’s genuinely mystified that people come to see them. He shouldn’t be. Luckily for him and us the Twilight Sad remain one of the best live bands in Britain – in maintaining that whilst significantly evolving their music, they also ensure they remain one of Britain’s best bands full stop.
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