All Tomorrows Parties’ Don’t Look Back shows have a habit of creating much excitement among British indie fans. It’s a simple idea – bands play one of their most acclaimed albums live, from beginning to end – but it sure is an effective one. ATP’s impressive knowledge of indie history and ability to attract big names, even reform some seminal bands, has almost guaranteed that the shows will sell out, year on year.

It is difficult to tell if Sebadoh’s turn in the series is sold out, but it’s certainly not far off. They will be playing their 1993 album, ‘Bubble and Scrape’ their first fully studio-recorded album and their last with Eric Gaffney. Yet again, ATP have brought together the original line-up for this gig, leaving audience anticipation levels extremely high.

On stage before them are Italian band Jennifer Gentle, whose quirky and rhythmically complex music has much in common with the Cardiacs and Syd Barrett. The crowd reaction to them is mixed, but it is clear that the band are talented and sounding a bit like Syd Barrett is no bad thing. Neither is sounding like the Cardiacs, for that matter.

When Sebadoh take the stage, the air of anticipation has grown to stupidly giddy heights, and as the band launch into the opening track from the album, ‘Soul and Fire’ this anticipation is replaced by an energetic euphoria.

For a band that is not known to be a dynamic live force, Sebadoh are an impressive and compelling live act, which is not hindered by the fact that they’re playing some of the finest indie rock songs this side of ‘Daydream Nation’. The band switch instruments throughout the set as different members take the lead for their own songs. Lou Barlow’s songs are the more melodic of the set, with the grungiest penned by Jason Lowenstien and the most avant-garde by Gaffney. The group rock out brilliantly on songs such as ‘Fantastic Disaster’ and ‘Sister’, but perform gentler songs such as ‘Happily Divided’ and ‘ClichÈ’ with a lively subtlety.

The band are engaging between songs as well, with an on-running joke describing the songs with track numbers. After the third song, ‘Telecosmic Alchemy’, the band stop to re-tune their guitars. At the optimum moment, a member of the audience yells “Play track four!”

The most touching moment in the set comes towards the end, when Barlow plays the song ‘Think (Let Tomorrow Bee)’ alone, just him and an acoustic guitar. The audience is respectfully silent as he plays the song, which gets the biggest cheer of the night. This is followed by ‘Flood’, the polar opposite of ‘Think’ – it’s the closest song in the set to heavy metal.

The one element of the crowd that partly detracts from the communal atmosphere are those that insist on shouting out requests during a set based around a single album. Initially it is touching to hear fans call out desperately for their favourite songs. By the end of the set it is annoying.
For the encore, the band plays songs from the rest of their back catalogue, with most shouted out by fans. The best of the bunch is ‘The Freed Pig’ from ‘III’, a cutting yet melodic attack on J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr, written shortly after Lou Barlow was fired from the group.

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Commenting On: KOKO, London, 7/5/2008 - Sebadoh

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