A chapel? Oh yes indeed; Praise Be and all that! Tonight's was one of the more unusual venues of my gigging career, but easy to find - directly opposite our usual parking spot for the Highbury Garage! So we got there at 8.15 after a bad traffic-blighted journey, and took our pews (quite literally) toward the end of an unnamed Alaskan female vocalists' set, which reminded me of Cocteau Twins' Liz Frazer, with a similarly mournful rounded vowel vocal sound.
The sold-out gig was packed in the front pews, and we were lucky to get a good balcony viewing spot, overlooking the stage, which was set up underneath the pulpit! Sparklehorse - on at 8.45, with mainman Mark Linkous walking onstage with a stick following his recent accident, but being sensibly seated through their set - suited the surroundings perfectly with an eerie, dusty collection of songs. Country music, maybe, but this is Marlboro Country, all cracked earth, tumbleweed, cacti, Jack Daniels, truck-stops and telegraph poles stretching out into the distance. Haunting, absorbing and evocative stuff, with the shockingly quiet "Spirit Ditch" a spooky highlight. Brilliant stuff!
By slight contrast, headliners Mazzy Star, a band I'd overlooked before, came on at 10 and evoked a different mood. Sombre, gothic, dark, depressive rather than depressing, they recalled elements as diverse as Madder Rose, Cowboy Junkies (especially new single "Flowers In December", which was very "Caution Horses") and The Doors (their encore take on "The End"). Hope Sandoval's vocals added a striking touch of individuality, though. A bit one-dimensional and relentless mood-wise, but still attention-grabbing. Music to paint your windows black to. Verdict? Not sure...
Totally sure about the splendid Sparklehorse though!