We were barely into January when Mojo magazine was throwing flowery praise all over Midlake's hotly anticipated third album, 'The Courage of Others', claiming ahead of its Feb 1st release here in the UK that it was likely stand as one of the best releases of 2010.
I just managed to nab 2 tickets for the gig at the Junction 2 here in Cambridge, even though all the tickets had been snapped up way in advance. I phoned the box office and it turned out that they had a few 'standing only' tickets left. Last night my wife and I stood right up at the front for a fantastic show that did not disappoint!
Beards, beards and more beards, you may as well have put a sign on the door saying 'No entry to the clean shaven' (women excluded of course). That's a slight exaggeration, but not as far as the band were concerned, even the youngest and freshest faced guitarist in the 7 piece band (7 of them!), sported 12 o'clock shadow. I felt positively naked, unworthy, having chosen that very evening to trim to the bone my rugged and rustic, facial undergrowth. Bad move for a gardener in winter as I found out today, as a sharp damp breeze blew across my milky chops.
The Junction 2 was a surprisingly small venue for these guys, and thankfully the management had finally had sense to remove a good chunk of the tiered seating, which on previous occasions had killed the atmosphere in this small auditorium. I hope this is now a permanent feature.
My only annoyance of the evening was having to stand next to some guy who fancied himself as a photo journalist, maybe he was one, whatever he was I became very acquainted with his right elbow as he strained and posturized himself into the ideal position, for him that is!, to take the many, many shots he needed. After dodging a potential elbow crack in the face one to many times I tapped him on the offending body part as a little reminder for him to be a little more spatially aware. At one point an i phone was used to capture the set list, which not doubt left the building as a little blue feathered tweet, winging its way off into cyberspace.
Despite this minor niggle we had a wonderful time as the band shifted back and forth from the new material to the fan favourites from Van Occupanther. I'd say that the Van Occupanther choices were more anthemic, but judging by what we heard last night the new album should be a stunner.
What is it about the band's hometown, Denton, Texas? Is it a hot bed of flute playing talent? The fluting on stage was gorgeous! One, sometimes two, and was it my imagination or did three of them play flutes at the same time?! I guess we'll be seeing a lot more bands playing flutes from now on. As a little side note, it was nice to here The Incredible String Band being played on the sound system as we stood nursing our drinks before the show.
With the spine tingling encore 'Branches' still ringing in our ears, we headed out into the foyer where the band mingled with a small group of hangers on. We chatted to the support artist, Sarah Jaffe, who was really nice, loved her voice, just like her purple vinyl Lp which we couldn't afford because we'd spent too much on taxi fares.
Midlake band member, Paul Alexander and his British girlfriend put up with some of my inane questions like "You must be tired?", to which he replied something like " I hope not, because that would be no good as we've still got a long way to go!", and " Will you be going to Scotland?". God knows why I asked him that!, I think I was a bit star struck. Unwilling to part with more money on their new cd (now regretting that), I got the band to autograph one of the Junction's leaflets. Lead vocalist, Tim Smith, took control of getting the guys to sign it and had to wave it in front of my face, as I almost left the building without it. So thanks to Tim I can post it here.
So there you go, a rare opportunity to see a band of this pedigree at a small venue, be sure to check them out this year. I imagine that they will be doing the festival circuit in the summer, just remember you'll need to grow a beard, the girls can wear false beards, it'll be just like the 'stoning scene' in Monty Python's 'Life of Brian'.