Live Review

Sky Larkin, The Cooler, Bristol

Lesser bands would have allowed the subdued atmosphere and dodgy sound to ruin their performance. But not Sky Larkin.

It seems like every music journalist worth their salt has been lauding Sky Larkin’s latest album ‘Kaleide’ recently. But even the best albums can be tarnished if they’re no good when played live, so how will Sky Larkin fare when they take their wholesome fuzzy pop goodness to a string of dingy, smelly venues?

Their set at Bristol’s Cooler takes a little while to get going, not really ‘clicking’ until the second track, the upbeat ‘Tiny Heist’ , which prompts some movement from those nearest to the stage. However, most of the people here tonight just aren’t in a dancing mood, instead seeming content to stand motionless, staring blankly at the stage. This seems to affect frontwoman and guitarist Katie Harkin and bassist Douglas Adams, who both appear slightly self-conscious and reserved, but there are no such worries for drummer Nestor Matthews, who hammers away at his kit whilst gurning like a Neanderthal and sweating profusely (maybe not the sweatiest man I’ve ever seen, but certainly in the top ten).

Katie switches to playing keyboard for the next couple of tracks, including the pulsating ‘Anjelica Huston’. But the on-stage chemistry works best when she slings her guitar back over her shoulder, as she does when she introduces ‘Kaleide’, an introduction which prompts cheers from a few hardcore devotees.

But ‘Kaleide’ turns out to be the first of several songs that, to be perfectly honest, all sound a bit alike. Don’t get me wrong; each track is an intelligent and perfectly crafted example of quirky guitar-pop that’s full of unexpected twists, but when played in quick succession they seem to lose their impact slightly, becoming rather samey (although, in all fairness, this could probably be blamed in part on the sound, which isn’t exactly top notch tonight).

So it comes as something of a relief when‘Still Windmills’ crashes the party towards the end of the set with its impossibly catchy melody and infectious four-to-the-floor rhythm. By now the band appear to be having a load of fun onstage and, after claiming that this gig, the second night on their tour, has been “well better than Brighton!”, Sky Larkin bring their set to a close with ‘Landlocked’, which, with its almost anthemic chorus, seems like a perfect way to finish the night.

But, in keeping with correct gig etiquette, a few people in the crowd demand an encore and, after politely checking with the soundman, Sky Larkin oblige. However, by the time they’ve plugged their guitars in again and re-tuned, the crowd have started to talk amongst themselves, and some are even drifting away. So, unfortunately, the encore turns out to be something of an anti-climax, not helped at all by its scrappy ending.

Many lesser bands would have allowed the subdued atmosphere and dodgy sound to ruin their performance. But not Sky Larkin. With more great tunes than they know what to do with, bags of charisma and a whole load of energy, tonight they seized victory (albeit a small one) from the jaws of defeat.

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