Saturday, 15 May 2010

498 SPARKLEHORSE, Lift To Experience, London Borderline, Wednesday 11 April 2001

Back to reality fairly quickly following a quick trip to Boston, and back to the trek oop the Smoke. Tim drove a band of happy travellers for this one, setting off at 20 past 5 and getting a surprisingly good run into the centre of town, eventually parking in Charlotte Street (prompting a few verses of the Lloyd Cole song from me!) and getting to the venue before 8. The dingy old Tex Mex downstairs bar is still the same, evoking memories of previous trips here - Cleos, Bonham etc.

These were suitably shattered as the place filled up to capacity, and the support band hit the stage. Lift To Experience were a Texan trio with a vocalist with humungous sideburns, a bass player with a beard you could hide a coyote in, and a drummer with a face like a balloon with a face badly drawn onto it. Their postcard biog compared them to Jeff Buckley, MBV and The Birthday Party, but in reality they played a blinding cacophonous noise, interspersed with some moaning "Sturm und Drang" dynamics. Fairly ropey tuneless stuff which merged into one messy noise very quickly.

By the time they'd finished, our vantage point near the bar, which seemed a good idea when we arrived, had become squashed and crowded, so I took to the floor to get a better view! Sparklehorse came on at 9.45 to a rapturous welcome from the sell-out crowd; this was the third of 3 sell-out nights previewing the new CD "It's A Wonderful life", but internet reports of the first 2 weren't promising. No oldies and only low-key slow newies, the reports said. After a couple of newies, however, this seemed like scaremongering, as they were deliciously slow-burning, parched country ballads with grace and beauty. The third number, a newie possibly called "Waiting For The Jets" even kicked the tempo upwards unexpectedly.

"Thanks for your patience through all the new songs," announced a gratified Sparklehorse mainman Mark Linkous, as he launched into the pure beauty of "Hundreds Of Sparrows". "No problem, they're beautiful, man," came the reply, and at this point it was spot on. Unfortunately, the legendary Sparklehorse inconsistency kicked in thereafter, as the final batch of newies was more directionless, low-key and samey, ending the set disappointingly, and only redeemed by encores "Cow" and the bleached soundscape of "Homecoming Queen". A fine evening with a disappointing end, which should I guess mean at least half a good album from this maddeningly inconsistent country genius Linkous!

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