Love or Disaster?
These two words are often attributed to the lead singer of homecoming threesome, I Am Kloot’s, songs. Johnny Harold Arnold Bramwell, is well known for his ironic lyrics and has been known to conjure up musical poetry based on love and disaster, empathy and jealousy or loss and new findings. However, perhaps it’s that I Am Kloot have all of a sudden found their feet in this dog-eat-dog world that is the music industry. Maybe they really are enjoying life. But more likely, it’s just that tonight is Valentine’s night and there really is a sense of romanticism or, at the very least, a warmth in the air that surrounds the band.
During the show JHAB speaks of the new found love of his once wandering relationship with his daughter. “Shoeless” – the second of the new tracks performed tonight taken from their newly released album, Let Them All In – is, in John’s own words, “Brilliant, that’s brilliant, that”, and he states how it was written about his daughter and the recently found affiliation between them. The beautifully caressing vocals cite “something lost came and found you/like the sea would surround you”. Emotions I doubt the talented Mancunian would have admitted in albums gone by.
For me, I would suggest that he is still maturing as a writer and a performer, and that there are still many steps yet to be taken during the, so far, brisk stroll of this positively enduring band. On stage they look, forgive me for saying this but, cooler than ever. Stylish, focussed, motivated and ever so assured. And so they should. They are playing in front of a-packed-to-the-rafters HMV Ritz in Manchester – 1,500 people tonight and another 1,500 at the same venue the following night. So it’s easy to reflect on how far this band have come and how they have transmogrified their performances thoroughly following 14 years of playing live together. From the heights and heady publicity of their first two highly acclaimed LPs (‘Natural History’ (2001) and their self-titled follow-up (2003)), it would have been easy to have let go when the going got tough. For instance, 2007’s ‘Moolah Rouge’ (studio album number four) almost didn’t happen until they managed to conjure up opening track “One Man Brawl”. Five years on it’s clear that riding the storm has enabled them to jump on the proverbial waves that have followed and that they have surely hit their commercial peak to date.
From I Am Kloot’s debut album through to this year’s new release, tonight they play tracks from their full repertoire – starting with “From Your Favourite Sky”, an old classic, some might say. The trio – the aforementioned lead singer and guitarist, with Andy Hargreaves on drums and Pete Jobson on bass – are accompanied on stage by another trio of musicians playing a variety of instruments – which John points out, makes their sound more “elaborate”. This point is proven following edgy performances of “Morning Rain” and “Northern Skies”. We hear five more new tracks alongside “Shoeless” that impress the crowd, broken up only by minor-eerie rocker “Lately” – another track from Mercury-nominated ‘Sky At Night’. With these new songs fitting in nicely with their current flock of acoustic standards, I wondered how the first single release from ‘Let Them All In’ would stand up to the billing. With the orchestra in the studio version of “Hold Back The Night” used to such epic standards – which, it is fair to say “makes” the track what it is – it is hard for the live performance of the song to truly reach the same proportions. Nonetheless, the energy from the band along with the lead guitar part paralleled with a single violin does do the song justice.
The rest of the band exit the stage at this point and John does a couple of solo tracks. He is of course used to playing alone, having toured solo in between previous albums to ensure that Kloot remain, though it may be in the distance, in the public eye. After a few playful slating’s at the crowd, in which he suggests that “only weird people come to gigs”, the band re-join him to play out to the encore.
As they all return to the natural raptures of applause, John’s predictable, yet still humorous words, “this… is a song about love……… and disaster” is his introduction to “Twist”, I Am Kloot’s unassailable song of cynicism and irony and is the penultimate song of the night. “Twist” was their first CD single release, back in 2000. So to finish the very impressive gig and to accompany this very early track (as part of the encore) is their newest single to date. “These Days Are Mine” sounds like an anthem made for a stadium. And indeed it looked, with the energy and drive that I Am Kloot were playing with, like they dearly wanted this mature but lively crowd to adhere to what it seemed to me was the aim of the band when they wrote it… for them to sing along! Sadly however on this occasion, the stubborn 1,500 Mancunians were not quite up to the part. Given time though and a few more listens to new LP maybe it could yet become a future festival classic.
Did I mention the word ‘disaster’? This was far from it. With a new LP in the bag, a tour that will reach out through to the end of spring, Isle of Wight festival on the horizon, I think there is only one way this band are going and based on this Valentine’s night performance, the love for I Am Kloot should continue to grow.