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Shearwater - Scala, London, 3/4/2012

  by Chris O'Toole

published: 16 / 4 / 2012

Shearwater - Scala, London, 3/4/2012


Chris O'Toole watches still underappreciated dark folk rockers Shearwater play a superb set in their biggest gig to date yet at the Scala in London

Shearwater seem to have gambled and won with their new album, 'Animal Life'. During the closing stages of this evening’s gig at the London Scala, in the down-at-heel Kings Cross district of London, chief songwriter Jonathan Meiburg confides “this is the biggest gig we have ever played as a band”, confirming their status as rising stars of a hardworking underground. While they have often seemed a touch precious on their recorded output, Shearwater offered a new, direct sound with their latest release, replacing some of the more ornate piano and glockenspiel with a robust guitar sound. Live this change reaps a rich reward, with the more muscular, focused performance drawing the crowd in. Sure, Meiburg’s sometimes drunken choirboy-like vocals are still the main attraction, but on this tour he is assisted by a sturdier ensemble. Danny Reisch (of Austin, Texas based band the Lemurs, and the producer of Animal Joy) on drums is a welcome addition. Playing with a delighted smile on his face throughout the gig, he drives the band forward at every opportunity, allowing Shearwater to present a clearer vision of who they are than perhaps ever before. Christiaan Mader (also of Brass Bed) on bass also helps out, replacing some of the more flowery flourishes of the band’s recorded output with a more conventional, direct rock sound. Mitch Billeaud, (the Lemurs) on guitar and keys, and Lucas Oswald (of Minus Story, Hospital Ships, and the Appleseed Cast) on guitar, complete the touring line-up. Notable by his absence is drummer Thor Harris, who Meiburg tells the crowd remains a vital part of the band after deciding to sit out this tour after eighteen months on the road with industrial titans Swans. This evening’s set – performed to a three quarters full venue – draws largely from 'Animal Life', but also takes in favourites from 'The Golden Archipelago' and 'Rooks'. A devoted fan base cheers 'Leviathan', 'Bound', 'Breaking the Yearlings', 'Home Life' and 'Century Eyes', while a full-on strobe lights breakdown during 'Pushing the River' confirms a pretty sharp change in direction for a group known largely for their prim vocals and bucolic themes. An inevitable encore closes with a well chosen cover of 'These Days' from the now sadly departed REM. The track offers Meiburg another chance to showcase his vocal talents and again begs the question why this band isn’t headlining festivals this summer. A really underappreciated, darkly beautiful band tailoring their sound in a deliberate attempt to it to a wider audience. They should go far.

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Shearwater - Scala, London, 3/4/2012

Shearwater - Scala, London, 3/4/2012

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