It was a chilly evening to be outside waiting too long, but that was where this writer found himself on the gig night; warned of a possible sell-out night, arriving early was the best course of action in order to secure a ticket – foolishly on reflection as one could have been bought online in advance. Having forgotten this fact, waiting outside was what was done, amongst others as well; in fact a small and polite queue was formed and although doors were advertised at 7.30, we were not let in until at least 8.20, and so not a great start to an evening. It was also the first time however this individual found himself donning ‘SS’ in red biro on my hand (!).
Nonetheless having read the Shakespeare quote ‘Better three hours too soon than a minute too late’ recently this delay sparked an interesting conversation with a visiting Spanish woman called Remi who had not only heard of Stealing Sheep from her native country, but actually made the effect to come along and hear the group. Mostly we discussed who the historical dominance of American music (of all kinds) upon Europe and say, how little Spanish contemporary music is heard in the UK – likewise this own island’s chart music was talked about and naturally how woeful it has become of late (need any of THAT be mention here).
Fortunately, nothing was second-rate on this night. First up was the truly unexpected Ex-Easter Island Head; arranged in a circle or a series of tables, the trio adjusted their electric guitars balanced on top and using soft beaters, made fantastic sounds of the said instruments resonating their open tuning. Benjamin Duvall introduced the group and the proceeded to perform a three movement piece for mallet guitars; hypnotic, mesmeric and dimly lit their use of minimalism and four-to-the-floor dance bass drums sent most of those present into some sort of a trance. Having heard Ex-Easter Island Head at this year’s Sound City Festival, it was welcome coda to witness the slow burn nature of their performance again in a less hectic context.
In a complete contrast, next on were a psychedelic trio named The Left Hand, which were again on unconventional lineup of synths, guitar and drums. Super heavy drumming, riff landed guitar and piercing, delay vocals was their offering to the evening; the opener ‘Dodecahedron’ with its progressive rock type time changes and hard sound certainly work everyone up from their trance-state: The Left Hand set was very loud and they certainly rocked.
Next up were the band everyone present was awaiting. Playing now to a packed out venue the three elegantly presented ladies (on synths, percussion and guitar) unleashed tight and complex, three-part harmonies of a first class nature (think Crosby, Stills and Nash); their sonically compatible voices and ranges eerily give the impression that they sound related, of the same family like Watford’s finest, The Staves. Yet they have their own identity and are not ashamed to convey this aesthetic of stripped-down, sincere songs of twenty-something concerns. With a set that easily reached over forty five minutes, the majority of their debut album Into The Diamond Sun was sung out with particular notable songs being the bright, sunshine pop Genevieve and Shut Eye. An element of humour was added to proceedings when someone’s present of pink underwear luckily landed on drummer Lucy Mercer’s mic stand: it was later collected by a forty year man onstage and redistributed very amusingly, can’t beat Liverpudlian wit eh like?
What more can be said? A welcome return to Stealing Sheep’s city of origin attended by an appreciative and jovial crowd, a sort of early gift to the Merseyside music community from its new, finest bastions.
Mark Jones (MA)
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Published: 15th December 2012, 12pm.