Erland and the Carnival Live Review @ Old Blue Last (Hackney) - 18 Feb 2010
The Old Blue Last in London's now exceptionally trendy East End (well Old Street to be precise) is a great pub, surrounded by relatively pretentious drinking holes and gastro pubs. It stands out, literally, on the fork of two roads and looking like something out of Dickensian England. It is also small, very very small. Erland and the Carnival may not be a household name yet, but they are on their way to becoming so and the buzz surrounding them (with ex-Verve / The Good, The Bad and the Queen player Simon Tong providing the cause for the buzz) is big. Small venue, almost big band adds up to a brilliant yet squished evening of pure musical joy!
Arriving a little late (after finding Old Speckled Hen on tap in the pub area of the venue) I manage to catch the majority of support act 'Treetop Flyers' who were an absolute treat; playing a mix of Americana country (in the ilk of The Band) and good old-fashioned rock. I bought the album at the gig and really haven't looked back (for a great tune try 'It's About Time' on their Myspace page).
However, it was clear that the audience were here to witness the tour de force that is Erland and the Carnival; and they do not disappoint. The stage may be tiny, with the drummer in the front and the myriad of other players scattered about the small space, but the band sound great opening with the crowd pleasing 'Love is a Killing Thing' (absolutely brilliant!) and then just storming through their debut eponymous album 'Erland and the Carnival'. Another highlight of the evening is the quite astounding 'Trouble In Mind', possibly the best track on the album, with the following addictive sing-along chorus - 'I didn't mean to disappoint you, I'm just sorry that I did' (they make even this seem relatively cheery! Lead singer, Erland Cooper, does try to be (through movements alone) Ian Curtis, and Simon Tong appears to have a somewhat Johnny Marr complex. These are no bad things, in fact the only down side is when Cooper asks the crowd if they (the band) make us (the crowd) nervous - well no actually, you don't. It is a strange comment, and I guess from all the hype they can't help but be a little on the arrogant side. Glossing over this indiscretion, the band rattle off their tracks flawlessly and suddenly everyone in the room can feel, nay, smell the buzz (if this is possible!).
Erland and the Carnival are great. Fact. They also know it (this is not a bad thing - in fact it is rather nice to see an arrogant band, this has been missing somewhat since the heady days of 90s indie). I have the good fortune to be reviewing the band again when they support Tunng in London in two weeks. Frankly I can't bally well wait! They are the next big thing. They are Carnival!