Tuesday, 24 November 2009

737 BUFFALO TOM, Tiny Vipers, London Islington Academy, Saturday 1 December 2007

And here's an already-special band to finish off the 2007 gig year in style! I broke my Logan-inspired gig hiatus for the Tom's first UK show in 9 years when Logan was 3 weeks old, so for sure we'd be back for this, their first UK show in, erm, 4 1/2 months! Plus, of course, Islington Academy = pre-gig Wagamamas! So a 3.15 start saw Rachel and I, with Tim and Penny, hitting mad Christmas traffic and parking up at the NI centre at 6.15, meeting our London friends, and after a usual splendid Wagamamas with good company, we hit the venue at 8. Tiny Vipers were on, playing virtually silent folksy material which frankly made the Cowboy Junkies sound like Napalm Death. I took a wander around the venue and overheard this snatch of conversation; "This lot are from Seattle, you know,"; "you mean, they've come all that way, just to do THAT??" Brilliant!

Took a spot stage left, unfortunately behind a couple of tall blokes, for Buffalo Tom's entrance at 8.30, Bill claiming, "We're not used to going on this early!" Possibly underlining this, they eased into their set with a couple of mid-paced numbers from their shiny 1994 would-be breakthrough "Big Red Letter Day" CD, as if feeling their way into the set, which was odd given they'd just toured in Europe! A sparkling, emotive "Kitchen Door" from Chris really started to pull things around, though, and by "Tangerine", a couple of numbers later, I was in the (admittedly very polite!) moshpit. The Tom paced their set perfectly, given that they're no longer young 20-something spunkers - each fast, mosh-inducing number (e.g. "Tangerine", "Velvet Roof") was followed by a plangent, moody slowie ("Scottish Windows" or the brilliant "Mineral"). And of course "Larry" and "Taillights Fade" were extraordinarily high watermarks in this set of prime blue-collar US alternative rock.

Not so much banter this time as the Tom were working against the clock - Bill kept referring to this throughout the set, so they didn't stay off for long after their set closer, before returning for an oddly low-key double encore of "Rachael", nevertheless perfectly delivered by Chris, and the sinuous oldie "Crutch", to close a surprisingly quick 1 1/2 hour set.

So we bade farewell to our London friends promptly to get a quick exit, which unfortunately backfired on us (literally!) as Tim's car ground to a juddering halt on the A40, necessitating a call to the AA. They only took 5 minutes to arrive (!) and after sorting out the electrics, we eventually got home at 10 to 1. Anyway, the Tom? Well, I'd seen them better, but for this and their exemplary July show, they deserve my 2007 Top Live Act award. Still as emotive, vital and very special as ever!

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