Sympathetic Stupid

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Clinkerfield + Oliver Mann @ Old Bar

Oliver Mann is an unassuming figure; lacking the imposing beard of his brother, Paddy (Grand Salvo). Unassuming, at least, until he opens his mouth to sing. He effortlessly took command of the small room at the Old Bar, despite its dubious acoustic qualities, without any accompaniment or even a microphone. The range and power of his voice are much-storied and even more impressive in person - I got the feeling he was holding back in the lower register to avoid hurting people.

We heard a range of tracks from the album as well as some new stuff. Shoe Of Leather was impressive, but the highlight of the set was a magical Herringbone Blues. Matty from Clinkerfield has been studying up, cause he was pitch-perfect on the serene harmonies in the chorus; impromptu from the back of the room, mind.

So then to a completely different set from Clinkerfield. The last couple of times I'd seen them, especially at the Rob Roy, it'd been underwhelming, perfunctory performances, full of all the old favourites but not at their best. Last night, as an indication of the strength of the performance, we got Gravel Road as a sound-check (I get the impression they're a little sick of the track) and Pissing Down in the middle of the set, instead of closing as is customary. (It was still killer, though.)

I reckon they're moving to a new plane of existence, and if this set was any guide, it'll be a plane of existence involving touring foreign countries, brown M&Ms and lashings of alcohol in riders and groupies all round. And possibly also Jimmy wearing Amish hats, though that may have been just this gig. Quite a few killer new songs, especially one about "her little finger" (before which Jimmy said he'd been listening to a lot of Tom Waits).

But it was what they did with each one, big rock breakdowns with the boys all in the same place as they took this thing to Mexico. Rhythm right there, mixing it up but staying on the button, guitar wandering Nels Cline-ish through the mix, vocals soaring and swooping over the top. Reminiscent in many ways of a Wilco live set, though not so much of Kicking Television which is the less impressive new-school Wilco, the old-school The Band-listening Wilco. Clinkerfield are sitting comfortably between rock, blues and country and doing a smashing job.

And the new album - Take In The View should be out quite soon. Get onto it.