Leaf on Bold Street, 27/10/12
How many bands can you name that are from Belgium? Soulwax...yeah what else? Thought so.
who showed up early upstairs at Leaf on this drizzly eve can add one
more, as we were rewarded with one of the greatest pleasures of gig
going - a surprisingly good unknown support. The Hickey Underworld from
Antwerp are not breaking ground with their guitar/drums/bass setup and
their muscular, dark and driving rock sound. But in this dizzying
musical climate of post everything and whatever-step it’s both strangely
quaint and a relief to hear a band play straightforward, intelligent
heavy music with a discernable tune. A formula so brilliantly nineties, that’s a compliment.
A fitting warm up to Two Gallants, who are about as stripped down a pair as you can get. There’s something of a dusty saloon feel to the San Fran duo that have returned after a five-year gap with fourth record ‘Bloom and the Blight’, their most immediate work so far.
Their very American sound, rooted in storytelling and a rambling, guitar pickin’ style, has always been a tad too raw and unpredictable to be filled in with other heart on sleeves types like Bright Eyes. And while the round-the-campfire feel is still present, with this record comes a new, snappier, poppier side with a helluva lot more electric guitar – inviting for the first time comparison with that other famous bearded twosome, The Black Keys.
There’s still no mistaking the band and their strangely old fashioned imagery, and tonight the band throw themselves into tunes new and old with equal intensity. At their best prove a truly mesmerising force.
Lead vocalist/guitarist/harmonicist Adam Stephens rasps in his trembly, sing-speak way through classics like ‘Steady Rollin'’ and ‘Las Cruces Jail’, and unleashes a new full scale scream for rocky new anthems ‘Halcyon Days’, ‘Ride Away’ and ‘Winter’s Youth’.
Drummer Tyson Vogel is no Meg White, as an accomplished vocalist in his own right, and with the duo having played together since adolescence they are very much a unit. Vogel is the showman of the pair, and most of the light hearted, grateful banter comes from him tonight. The Leaf crowd is small but wholly appreciative, and it’s touching to notice members of The Hickey Underworld taking snaps from the front.
An evening of unadorned, and thoroughly unmodern music and one that I left feeling all the purer for having witnessed.
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