I feel privileged that over the past 3 years living in London I have managed to see most of the bands I have wanted to live. Midlake were one who managed to elude me for several years – I discovered them at what must have been the end of their touring for previous album ‘The Trials Of Van Occupanther’, and have since looked forward to the opportunity to see them live. I recently found myself with several opportunities to see them in a fairly short time.
The first of which was at Notting Hill’s Tabernacle, as part of Q Magazine’s ‘New To Q’ series of gigs. The fairly intimate gig had sold out quickly, and managing to bag a spot right at the front, within touching distance of the band on the foot-high stage, the expectations of the past few years were well and truly built up! They opened with ‘Winter Dies’ from new album ‘The Courage Of Others’, my first experience of any new material. My first impression was great, and that it had been worth the wait not only to see them live, but for the new album.
This gig was a chance for the band to showcase plenty of new material, with the majority of the new album being played. Album opener and highlight ‘Acts Of Man’ demonstrated the slight change of direction (a bit more subdued and darker), but incredible song writing ability of the band, something they have shown since their earliest days. In addition to other new tracks ‘The Horn’ and ‘Rulers, Ruling All Things’, Stephanie Dosen joined frontman Tim Smith to duet on ‘Bring Down’, as she does on the album. This was a much welcome pleasant surprise, being a big fan of her work with Simon Raymonde in ‘Snowbird’, especially as I was unaware of her Midlake album appearance at the time.
Of course what I was most looking forward to was the inclusion of some more familiar tracks. Whilst we weren’t lucky enough to get anything pre ‘Van Occupanther’, there was a good selection of tracks from that album, including the fantastically brilliant singles ‘Roscoe’ and ‘My Young Bride’. ‘Bandits’ and ‘Branches’ provided some slightly softer moments, but the real highlight was a superb version of ‘Head Home’ to close the set.
Jump forward 4 days (with a weekend in Edinburgh in the middle), and there is another opportunity to see Midlake, at the Rough Trade East store. The only problem is I didn’t have the motivation to trek over there in the cold at 6.30am when my sleeper train arrived back in London to collect a wristband, and they would have been sure to run out before I could get there after work. Thanks therefore goes to the fabulous people at Songkick for their Twitter competition to win a pair of wristbands, meaning that I and a (Midlake loving) friend could see them once more.
With the added bonus of being allowed in first thanks to the guestlist, I found myself once again right in front of the band in an even smaller venue! The set was shortened from their full gig, but still included plenty of the new album, giving me a chance to get to know the tunes better, with them sounding even more promising second time round. Another dose of Roscoe and Head Home completed the package and left me eagerly ancitipating the next show. Thankfully I don’t have to wait long, their return to London is a swift one, with a Shepherd’s Bush Empire gig in just two weeks time!