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Adem - Union Chapel, London, 25/8/2008

  by Anthony Dhanendran

published: 20 / 6 / 2008

Adem - Union Chapel, London, 25/8/2008


In the splendid atmosphere of London's Union Chapel Anthony Dhanedran watches former Fridge member Adem play a stunning set of both original material and also eccentric covers

In many ways, Islington's Union Chapel is the ideal venue for an Adem show – it's grand, quiet, intimate and warm; qualities that his music has embodied since his first solo album, 'Homesongs'. The new one, 'Takes,' which is the reason we're all here, is a collection of rather odd covers such as that of U2's 'MLK', which kicks off tonight's gig. It's a vocal version without any real accompaniment, which segues straight into 'Starla' (Smashing Pumpkins), then into PJ Harvey's 'Oh My Lover'. Resplendently dressed in a white t-shirt with large black spots on it, he stands at the front of a stage that's decked out with a bunch of large purple balloons. Adem's quiet voice is gently insistent and, as ever, suits his songs perfectly. It's still surprising to think that when he and Kieren Hebden formed their band, Fridge, they made it an instrumental act as neither of them supposed they could sing, because Adem's voice is one of the most endearing things about both his live shows and his records. Like most of the songs tonight, the Pinback and dEUS songs that follow the PJ Harvey number are quiet, languid affairs. As ever, the sound in the Union Chapel is superbly clear, another thing that suits the well-produced, intricate arrangements. Complaining that “you guys get to see all the fun stuff that goes on behind me,” he points to the band, saying “I'm going to try one.” Then it's time for the first of his own songs of the night, the highlight and title-track from his last album 'Love and Other Planets'. Ringing out to the high ceilings of the chapel, it's a song that seems made for the grandeur of the place. The band – drummer Chris Vatalaro, double-bassist Matt Lord, guitarist Vince Sipprell, glockenspiel/violinist Emma Smith, vibraphone player Fay Milton and harpist Nancy Elizabeth – are all multi-instrumentalists. The version of Aphex Twin's 'To Cure a Weakling Child' (one of the odder covers of the night) that follows involves a plucked violin held out like a machine gun, and dEUS involved Valataro putting a bow to the vibraphone for an ethereal, mourning strange sound. At other times there are harmoniums , bells, a flute and lots of percussion – Adem described himself in a Pennyblackmusic interview as a collector of musical instruments, something his band apparently share. Then there's 'Long Drive Home and Cut', both off 'Homesongs' (separated by the Breeders' Invisible Man) – the first is again solo while the latter is the first of the non-covers he plays with the band and is particularly spirited. The main set closes with another song from 'Homesongs', 'These Are Your Friends', again more spirited and more vibrant than the album version, thanks to the clockwork-choreographed percussion from the whole band. The song he chooses for the encore, Low's 'Laser Beam', is particularly apt for the stained glass window high up above the stage of the Union Chapel reads, in part, “Sing praises upon the harp unto your God. Sing unto him with thanksgiving.”

Picture Gallery:-
Adem - Union Chapel, London, 25/8/2008

Adem - Union Chapel, London, 25/8/2008

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