A Good Idea On Paper or Otherwise
Written By Michael Wood Saturday, May 26th, 2007
Duels, Laura Groves, Monty Casino BD1 Live at St George's Hall, Bradford
On paper BD1 LiVE is a good idea. Take some local bands and singers, throw in a bit of polish from Leeds, put them on at a fine old fashioned venue and the Bradford Music Scene has it's first official happening. Sounds like a great idea on paper.
That idea come out of mono - spiritual home of anything one can swing hips to in Bradford - and Granadaland the purveyor's of the region's finest music nights and for sure both are great in the Love Apple on a Friday night but this is bigger time - this is St George's Hall and these walls have seen Depeche Mode on the 101 tour, seen Morrissey belting out Sheila Take A Bow and for on a Saturday afternoon for twenty years they saw Giant Haystacks and Big Daddy wrestling it out. On paper must have seemed a good - but ambitious - idea. Throw in an early start time and last bus home finish time and it must have seemed like a good idea on paper.
Wandering up to ramp to the oft overlooked venue and there is a slight tingling - if not buzz of excitement then a flickering of ambition. The halls of St George's are not often trod by so many pairs of Converse All Stars but by the time Monty Casino come on the hall is nicely filled with enthusiasts admiring the curiosity of Bradford's fresh faces shambleists and complaining that the beer is no match for the Love Apple's.
Of course Monty Casino are a shambles in the finest possible way. The make good use of the self applied tag of experimental with a scratched out guitar mix of agitpop songs about obscurities. Lead singer Patrick does not want to fill the stage but stands looking sore thumb in the middle with bassist on his left and the open space on the right. It fits nicely as does the lack of polish to the nth degree that comes between each two minute thrashed out spike of pop.
And such spikes. Tour De France is about the cycle race, Gorbachev about the middle man of Russian history. "I don't know if anyone studies history but this song is about the man who shot Franz Ferdinand and caused the first World War, Gavrilo Princip", he says to an enthrallingly bemused audience, "and I wrote a song about him."
It probably takes thirty seconds for your mind to decide on Monty Casino and you probably either are prepared to proclaim them as genuine angry pop terrorists - bastard sons of The Jam and The Fall - or they are a bunch of kids on stage having had three years of history lessons and three years of music and got the two mixed up. Personally after thirty-one seconds I was sold. Monty Casino are one of the most curiously interesting bands I've ever seen and more power to them. Hopefully they will never lose the beautiful lack of cynicism that marks out their songs. They are smart and angry and a unapologetic and that is great.
Smart in a different way is Laura Groves. She has put a posh frock on and wanders onto a stage which is bigger than the footprint of Fagin's Bar in Halifax where first I became convinced on the Shipley songstress and stands in the middle with guitar around neck taking a deep breath and looking out on what must have very suddenly seemed like something while a good idea on paper. Slowly her fingers start to pick opening notes of I Am Leaving and the figure in the centre of the stage grows and every word rings as clear as a bell and swirls around the Hall mingling with the grandiose ceiling and all the history that that entails and each note is flying around and gliding between couples inching closer together and inhabiting the stalls and they circles back and returns to a single figure on stage who closes and opportune to the microphone. "I feel so small."
Laura Groves has never sounded so good. Each pick is heartstrung and each lyric draw in sharp contrasts and I am struck with how easily dismissed girl singers singing pretty songs can be and how harsh that would be on someone who can and did write "God knows, I want to write a love song/You asked so nicely for one/I promise I will do one/Before too long" and then by the depth of Laura Groves's palette. Not black and white, not subtle shades or pastel colours. A rich and deep palette.
Coast's lingering images of ships in storms is vivid and Bridges is a passion played out as Groves switches between guitar and keyboard and it seemed that the good idea on paper is just a good idea. I have heard this set a half dozen times but never this fitting, never this paradisiac, never this good.
Imaginary Flights is a fitting - and moving - final song and the applause is as genuine as the emotion. She lingers on stage and almost prepares a bow but instead dodges shyly behind the drapes for an excited hug.
Duels are an altogether more practiced affair than this Bradford Music Scene is used to. They mix new with old and the latter sounds quirky and inquisitive and really rather interesting while the former is a bit more on the Arcade Fire that is music in 2007. They slide easily into a rapport with the audience - no mean feat - and entertain without enthralling. Potential Futures stands out and the slowed down guitar and backing vocals that singer Jim Foulger and the returning Laura Groves enjoy is a smart move.
If This Car Should Crash shows a darker edge and they justify top slot and are an object lesson showing the hosts of bands coming from this side of Pudsey how the rigours of the Leeds circuit require a more slick edge.
So in time for the last bus for some who need it the first BD1 LiVE draws to a close and it all seems to have been a very good idea on paper or otherwise.