Jet Plane and Oxbow may well be the sainted Shearwaters best album yet (although I might have said that before for their other releases!) In many ways it is the record that sounds most like them live, always a soaring and uplifting experience. So anticipation was high to hear this towering collection in the flesh, so to speak.
The Fleece may not be the perfect venue but according to Jonathan Meiberg it is the ‘best sounding stone room in the universe’ and my, did they sound great. This band line up must surely be their best yet, everyone playing their hearts out and looking like they were enjoying themselves with a new-found urgency.
It is of course invidious to single out particular members but Josh Halpern (also of Marmalakes) on drums was a revelation, never less that at full tilt, propelled the band though song after song. But fine mention must also go to Sadie Powers (Dead Fame) on bass who was the second engine for the night. Sadie was apparently a bit off colour and so JM rather revelled in telling is that she did the most punk thing the band had done during a song – started to vomit but took it all back down. Lucas Oswald on guitar and Emily Lee on keys completed this fine assembly. Mildly gross though the Sadie anecdote is, the punk reference felt pretty much on point, for amongst all the other delights there was an undoubted punk spirit in there through the set – back to that energy and urgency.
The new tracks sounded even better, if that is possible, than on record (the Loser double blue vinyl is a thing of beauty by the way). I don’t think they missed a track out, which is just as well as they are all superb, and added in a couple of old favourites like Rooks and, I was especially pleased to note, You As You Were from Animal Joy.
Like many I suspect, I was intrigued by the news that the band is soon due to play their own version of David Bowie’s Lodger album, and we got to hear two songs from that set, both sounding powerful and muscular (I wonder of there might be some record of the Lodger show for those of us on the wrong continent?). Not that I really suspected it, but JM confirmed that exploring Lodger was underway before Mr Jones’ demise and this isn’t some mawkish band wagon jumping exercise…
The merch desk of course had the newly launched Complete Island Arc digital box set amongst other things, but sadly not the hoped for Safe Houses; an instrumental ‘deconstruction and reimagining of Jet Plane and Oxbox by their producer Danny Reisch. apparently a merch ‘snafu’ and this set will be available via Bandcamp once the band is back in the States (don’t be put off by the Sold Out tag – just ain’t ready yet!). I have been accorded sneak access to opener A Long Time Away and its so different, cinematic and beguiling. Cant wait for the rest!
A more than honourable mention must go to Cross Record who opened up the evening with a few tracks from their new album, Wabi-Sabi released through Ba Da Bing Records. It is really worth grabbing the album (as I did) and giving it a good old listen – on record it is yet more intriguing than live by dint of the fine production. Emily Cross and her husband Dan Duszynski (also the producer here) create a soundscape not unlike an approaching summer thunderstorm – go discover!
But the night was for Shearwater – and a wonderful rollicking and life affirming thing it was. A band surely at the height of its powers, playing ferociously but with sensitivity and care, one of my Desert Island Discs has their name on it.