April 23, 2024

Squid – Live In Leeds 2023 – “tonight, they aren’t going for ease of access”

Live at The Brudenell Social Club, Leeds 14th June 2023

It’s deliberately obtuse, or perhaps an act of faith to open your set with the off-beat, multi-parted, tortuous ‘Undergrowth’ and the crowd aren’t immediately grabbed. The atmosphere is set, though, with the trumpet-coloured sonic backdrop. Moving on quickly – there is little valedictory talk from the band on this album launch gig and only an inconsequential mention of passing Tom Jones at their last Brudenell gig – equally puzzling is the brief ‘Devil’s Den’; shifting from quiet mumblings to thumping and shouting. Let’s hope everyone has sampled the album before turning up.

The band opened ‘O Monolith’ with the catchy ‘Swing’ but tonight, they aren’t going for ease of access. Which is a shame – their albums are polished and complex, intricate structures, whereas tonight is more raw but not in a good way. I’m not getting a sense of great musicians playing off each other, I’m getting a mix of concentrating hard and of just good enough in places. A bit more live time with the songs might bring it on. ‘GSK’ off the first album helps with familiarity and shouty access to the beat. Plus, the band know when and what they’re doing in micro-detail.

The band are replete with all sorts of sounds – cowbell, trumpet, keys, a sort of vox celeste. The guitarist, Anton Pearson, focuses on empty space with a look of either frustration, dreaminess or boredom, while Olly Judge, on drums does his emoting. He and the bass are the only two enjoying themselves, with visceral reaction to the music from Louis Borlase. ‘After The Flash’ benefits from some super-deep bass sounds leading into the hyper-intense whorl of music and theatricality. Things are warming up. ‘If You Had Seen The Bulls…” obviously leads on a thick bass line and hits a nice little guitar figure. Tonight, it’s the dance number, carrying moveable beats and hooks. Now we are getting somewhere in terms of audience reaction (measured in nodding heads).

‘Documentary Filmmaker’ is an oldie that grabs with the familiar and with the hooky words; “it was warm in the summer, snowing in February”, repeated as a spiralling trumpet illustrates. It leads us to some electronic rambling, the bassist on the floor fiddling, sequencer, modular and percussion playing about as they find their way into the song they should have started with, the super-accessible (for Squid) ‘Swing’; the one that would have set the mood for the evening, warmed the band straight in and grabbed any neophytes who might have been in the building. The one where Olly sings. But that’s not how Squid roll.

Obviously, most of the tracks are from the new album but a couple of old ones leaven the mix. I do wish there had been more; forty-five minutes isn’t enough for a band that take quite a while to find their mojo and have that proggy immersion thing going on anyway. Anyone wanting a longer set can catch the Autumn tour – a fully warmed-up and into-it Squid would almost be worth braving the horrors of the O2 Academy in Leeds.


Our review of ‘O Monolith’ is here: https://www.vanguard-online.co.uk/squid-o-monolith-the-underlying-restless-discomfort-is-both-unsettling-and-satisfying/

And ‘Bright Green Field’ here: https://www.vanguard-online.co.uk/%ef%bb%bfsquid-bright-green-field-jerking-and-dancing-in-all-directions-at-once/

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