Live Review

Mystery Jets, The Rainbow, Birmingham

It’s clear that despite their progression, Mystery Jets haven’t messed with the magic formula.

It’s said that good things come to those who wait, and in tonight’s case you can’t help but hope for incredible things, because Mystery Jets keep us hanging around for several hours before satisfying our general curiosity (and ennui). Despite the time on the doors saying 7pm, the enchanted corridor that leads from the bar to the gig room doesn’t miraculously yawn open until a good hour and a half later, to a flurry of premature excitement. Support comes from Brummie four-piece, Peace, who break the tedium with subtle, jangly indie, of Foals-meets-Friendly-Fires variety, and maybe like with owners and their dogs, support bands end up emulating the headliners, as the lead singer has more than a passing resemblance to Blaine Harrison of the ‘Jets. Possessing a professional swagger and compelling sound, it would be an injustice if Peace don’t start getting the kudos they clearly deserve. After that though, comes The Longest Set Up In The History Of The Universe, as we wait the interminable almost-hour to see what we came for. “Oh my god, I literally want to go home right now,” whines one girl in frustration. “He’s such a c**t, I hate him,” mutters her friend darkly, darting homicidal glances at the obliviously cheery soundman. But then to our collective relief, and to the strains of country music, Mystery Jets stroll casually onstage.

Line-up change notwithstanding – the departure of bassist Kai Fish, and subsequent additions of Peter Cochrane on bass and Matt Park on pedal steel - the band seem much the same as ever. Sure, material off forthcoming album ‘Radlands’, their Texan concept record, is given a good outing, and is definitely a bigger leap from their last album than was present between ‘Twenty One’ and ‘Serotonin’. But the band’s quirkyness and ear for catchy hooks and pop melodies remains undiminished as ever, and maybe even stronger than before. Kicking off with the gently distressed ‘Someone Purer’, showcasing a whoa-oh-oh chorus that’s pure ‘Jets, helps usher in a set whose motto is out with the old and in with the new. ‘Saviour’ is a wicked country-funk jam which gives co-vocalist Will Rees a chance to shine, while ‘Sister Everett’ again sees Will take over singing duties with Blaine breaking out some 80s hair rock-style riffing in the background. There’s just about room for a few oldies, though. ‘Serotonin’ practically explodes off the stage, like a thousand bags of Skittles – and packs the punch of its collective e-numbers too – and ‘Veiled In Grey’ is lovely, full of Blaine’s swooning vocals, and a sublime guitar-heavy melody. ‘Alice Springs’ is the standout however; its relentless, driving rhythm and passionately urgent chorus, that’s altogether so reminiscent of Arcade Fire, is the finest point of tonight’s gig.

But it’s clear the band’s focus is on their new material, and while it’s a treat to hear album no. four before it’s released, it comes at the exclusion of what should have been mainstays. The shimmer and delightful kazoos of ‘Flash A Hungry Smile’ is a sad omission, and the downright mysterious – not to mention deplorable – absence of ‘Young Love’, especially when the overdone ‘Two Doors Down’ manages to keep its place is also very surprising. The night ends on a magnificent flourish, however. Coming back onstage for the encore, with drummer Kapil Trivedi generously doling out sambucca shots to some of the crowd, the band launch into a few more songs, before finally closing with the arms aloft anthem ‘Flakes’. It’s clear that despite their progression, Mystery Jets haven’t messed with the magic formula: ‘Radlands’ is the same band, just coated with a glaze of rural Americana – and that makes them definitely worth the wait.

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