Woodpigeon + The Miserable Rich @ ICA,London. Feb 25th 09.

Woodpigeon – Knock Knock

The Miserable Rich – Boat Song

It’s Wednesday night and I’ve had the Woodpigeon song ‘Knock Knock’ bouncing round my head all day as a lot of their tunes have a habit of doing but before I get to hear it there’s the support band to deal with. Who is this guy depriving me of my Woodpigeon goodness, standing in an almost Liam Gallagher, hands behind back, arched neck pose, staring out at me from the dimly lit ICA stage? His stance and glare are made less intimidating by the double bass, cello, acoustic guitar and violin that surround him but I’m still expecting him to pack some sort of a punch.

I’m talking about tonight’s main support act The Miserable Rich and in particular their frontman James Malplaquet, who grabs my attention this evening with the intensity and clarity of his voice. The music too is endearing but it’s his words that make the songs special. ‘Pisshead’, a witty tale of boozing, gets a laugh, starting with “I’m dead as a dodo, I’m flat on my ass” but as James continues a darker story of “fears and fevers” unravels. It’s engaging stuff as is ‘Boat Song’ another from debut album Twelve Ways To Count.

To avoid danger of proceedings getting too intense, an excellent, unexpected cover of Hot Chip’s ‘Over and Over’ is thrown in to break up the set nicely.  It’s only a brief change of mood though as it’s in a vocal driven intensity that The Miserable Rich’s strength lays. There’s evidently an intelligence and sense of humour to the song writing, demonstrated by ‘Poodle’, a track about the UK’s relationship with America. ‘Muswell’ is another highlight with James’ voice climbing and dipping athletically with the music. By the time the band play ‘Merry Go Round’ I’ve already been won over although listening at home today I’d definitely recommend the live experience over the recorded one.

Woodpigeon seem to have come from nowhere this year, fallen out of the sky even (couldn’t resist!). Signed to the increasingly impressive talent roster at End Of The Road label, the band officially released Treasury Library Canada only this month and already they play to a sold out crowd at ICA tonight. Not bad going.

Main man Mark Hamilton leads a band of eight including a mixture of strings, woodwind, keys, guitars all of which folk mainstays but it becomes quickly clear that Woodpigeon are more than just another folk band. The comparisons to Sufjan Stevens, Belle and Sebastian, Iron and Wine (the list could go on) are all warranted but the band somehow amounts to more than just the sum of these considerable parts. ‘Emma et Hampus’, a track written in Paris apparently, is for me an early highlight with Mark’s vocals particularly haunting. We’re also treated to the excellent ‘Cities Of Weather’, which is my current most played track from the album, although that seems to be changing on a daily basis at the moment as I uncover new hidden gems.

The audience already seem familiar with the band’s newer material and shout and holler approval for perfect renditions of  ‘Knock Knock’ and the string-laden ‘I Live A Lot Of Places’ which Mark humorously uses to display his “direct approach to song naming”. Keep it coming! Due to it’s member count the band will easily fill most stages but this evening they make this one their home, almost literally, with mesmerising moving images from their native Alberta, Canada which we’re repeatedly reminded is “home to the 88 winter Olympics and Eddie The Eagle!”. ‘Oberkampf’ a track not on their latest album is my favourite unknown of the evening with it’s sweet female backing vox offsetting Mark’s “Tell me about where you’ve been, where you’re going” and what I seem to remember as a subtle ukulele line.

Not to be outdone on any front this evening, before the night draws to what seems like a premature ending, Woodpigeon get in a cover version of their own, Abba’s ‘Lay All Your Love On Me’. Another inspired choice and although The Miserable Rich join them on stage for the song it’s all Woodpigeon really and Mark’s voice unsurprisingly is the icing on the cake. We’ve been privy to two bands with great vocalists this evening but I have no reservation in proclaiming Mark’s Woodpigeon the New Kings and Queens Of Quiet.

Woodpigeon @ ICA, London. Feb 25th 09 by musicmule.co.uk

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