April 22, 2024

Caravan Palace – electroswing puts a spark into Leeds’ Friday night

Live at Leeds O2 Academy 24th January 2020

I didn’t even know Electroswing was a thing and to see a full house for something that barely squeaks onto the radio was a delight. Tonight the O2 was a friendly place, without its usual beery shoving and sense of bubbling irritation, as happy people danced.

Caravan Palace are a seven-piece band that know how to fill a stage. Perpetually in motion, the keyboard player doubles on bass, the guitarist doubles on some electronic gizmo and the sometime drummer, DJ and two-piece horn section flit about. Instrumentalists move to centre stage to duet with Zoé Colotis and a couple of dance routines are orchestrated, topped off with a dance-off. It’s all done with a sense of style and friendliness and the audience joins in – mostly by bouncing at the right times – but some are dressed as characters from the songs and a few as electro-flappers.

Quite where the idea of fusing elements of Django Reinhardt, Lionel Hampton and trip-hop came from is a puzzle but the result is a lot of fun and kept me smiling, despite a total lack of knowledge of the songs. Black Betty is, of course, the exception and creates a small frenzy. Bits of scat and slices of EDM and hip-hop make for a varied set. The newer material is more pop and less twenties-influenced; it leaves the audience unmoved but no songs outstay their welcome and things move on rapidly, with twenty tracks played in an hour and a half.

The hits build up towards the end and Brotherswing has an extended breakdown with its squelch-beat. I am also treated to the sight of breakdancing to a clarinet solo – something beyond my most fevered dreams. The band delight in taking all the busy elements that might have been created by samples and, instead, playing them live – kicking up a vibrant energy that feeds directly into the happy crowd. For a newcomer like me, a happy discovery and I’m treating myself to the sixty-minute YouTube mix on repeat.

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