The Twilight Sad
The Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
When chatting to the guy running the merchandise stall tonight he remarked to me that he thought this was one of the best venues he’s been to throughout the whole country – and I had to agree, I love this place. Everything seems just right – the layout, the atmosphere, the sound are all spot on.
There’s a fair throng gathered for the captivating emotional set of support act RM Hubbert – a kind of hairy, tattooed folk singer/classical guitarist. This swells, as a relatively large turnout waits in palpable anticipation of the main event. In contrast to the stark, stripped down style of RM, The Twilight Sad and their crew set-up and fiddle with banks of effects boxes, laptops and amps – a precursor to the expected tumultuous racket that’s due to be created. The techies spend ages tuning up including making weird Phantom of the Opera style keyboard noises – with everyone (including waiting audience) clearly not entirely convinced that’s what it’s supposed to sound like.
Eventually the band stroll on stage – there’s no hellos or introductions or any such nonsense – they just get stuck straight into it. New cuts from their latest album ‘No One Can Ever Know’ go down a storm with the likes of ‘Alphabet’ and ‘Dead City’ swelling into a cacophonous racket.
Singer James Graham is a tight ball of nervous energy in a terrible Christmas jumper, his awkward and intense demeanour reminiscent of Ian Curtis (he even looks a bit like him). The rest of the band don’t say anything, smile or show any emotion at all – they just focus on creating a roaring mountain of sound. Debut album highlight ‘That Summer, at Home I Had Become the Invisible Boy’ is greeted by the crowd like an old friend returning home from an extended sabbatical.
James is a highly jittery presence – he seems frustrated with the sound, intermittently complaining that he can’t hear a thing and keeps fiddling with some fancy bit of new ear mic kit that doesn’t seem to be working correctly. Eventually he gets so frustrated with it he rips it off, grabs a normal microphone and leaps down to sing the powerful ‘Cold Days from the Birdhouse’ in amongst the crowd so that he can hear himself properly. It’s a fantastically exhilarating moment that transforms the night from a normal gig into more of an event. He remains in the throng for the next few songs – the crowd encircling him like a pack of wolves before returning to the stage to rapturous applause.
Penultimate song ‘And She Would Darken the Memory’ is a huge, emotionally wracked tour-de-force of pulsating drums, dominant guitars and James’ biting, acrimonious lyrics recounting past maltreatments and victimization which climaxes in a crescendo of white noise. That really should be it, but they give us another less familiar number from the new album before staggering off stage to fall into a sweaty, triumphant heap - job done. The crowd disperses into the night - ears ringing, minds expanded and hearts melted. What more could you ask for?