Not all gigs that on paper look potentially great live up to expectations come the night. This night did. With the three bands atop the bill all very familiar, I made sure to turn up for the doors to hear Italian band Blume's UK debut. I wasn't alone and, like me, those who had gathered early uniformly added another worthwhile name to their consciousness. As a first appearance in a new country they don't get any better.
Coming across as confident, tight, and professional with a suite of quality synthpop songs, they made a memorable impression. It happened a few times during their set, but Der Einzige in particular stood out reminding me of early Cure or Clan of Xymox. The split of live instrumentation across keyboard/singer/guitar worked and came across well offering plenty of visual interest even if it falls largely on Enrico Blume's shoulders as lead singer to hold the spotlight and audience. Which he does well with a good voice and expressive delivery. If tonight's performance and reaction is any yardstick then it ought not be too long before we get to see Blume in the UK again. Here's hoping. Their debut album Rise From Grey is available via their website (blumeofficial.com).
Blume setlist: Walking In The Darkness, White Shades, Across The Bridge, Der Einzige, To The Night, Endless, Farewell
If Method Cell's mission is to always have fun on stage whilst bringing their audiences in on it they made another pretty good job of it tonight. Being in the bottom half of the bill meant the crowd weren't as partisan as they have had before – so they didn't have it all their own way. Nevertheless, vocalist Apollos and synth player Alex didn't let that waver them from their objective.
The beats and effective melody hooks are immediate even if you've not heard them before. Apollos' voice is more likely to divide opinion. On the backing track were some terrific drum sounds and programming helping recreate their solid studio album tracks. Third song The Fallacy was a new one. Virtually written on the train on the way down from Nottingham if you were to believe Apollos. Its chunky synth bassline and stabbing melodies are not untypical of their debut album, but overall the compostion and vocal line shows a marked development and the more 'serious' sound was perfect in a supporting role to Seabound. The fatness of bass on an extensively remixed Scissors was too much for the Purple Turtle's PA to handle – popping its discomfort in protest.
I love Alex Herrington's live keyboard work. His laid-back slapping of his synth keys not only looks cool but he's a decent player too – so it sounds as good as it looks. Unwound was the other new song from their forthcoming second album. Again, the BPM's had been tempered in comparison to much of what we've heard to date but this too has a more matrure feeling to it which suggests the second album could hold a few surprises. They finished, as ever, with the signature Push. “We we're Method Cell...” said Apollos as their time in the limelight came to an end, “...and you were, well, gorgeous frankly!” - shameless flirt.
Method Cell setlist: Drop Dead, Believe, The Fallacy, Scissors (Rock Paper Scissors Mix), Unwound, Push
Dark electronic mood merchants Global Citizen boast an unforgettable frontman in Rich 'September' Mills. When I first saw him as part of this band I said he looked like a deranged Cenobite from the film Hellraiser. Tonight, however, was one of the rare occasions that Mills performed sans the usual black 'mask' make-up and his usually flamboyant outfits. To me he looked like a streamlined version of serial prisoner Charles Bronson. But with Mills barefaced, and sporting just a vest, I wondered if the presence the band usually exude, created in no small part to his appearance, would be undermined. Thankfully, the answer was 'no'. This was just as subversively thrilling as always. Of course, the presentation doesn't affect the most important aspect of performing live – the music. And so it was here.
Indeed, as they were fielding a new live drummer, the music was as robust as ever, even enhanced on several tracks. Second song Slave is a showcase for the howling banshee side of Mills' vocal repertoire. Whilst the drums on Don't Make It Slow were massive – an improvement over previous live renditions. Of this evening's all-to-brief 30 minute set, the repeatively hypnotic Things really stood out. A brilliant song that captures much of what makes Global Citizen so different to any would-be competition. There's no getting around the fact that their sound is very much an acquired taste (even on this scene), and whilst not all of tonight's audience were entirely comfortable with the Global Citizen's challenging proposition, it didn't noticeably dampen the band's delivery. And Mills is as effective up front with or without make-up and theatrical wardrobe.
Global Citizen setlist: The Only One, Slave, Don't Make It Slow, Early Morning Star, Things, Ain't Over Yet, Your Majesty
Seabound are a curious act. When they appeared on the scene (in 1995) on the then key German label Dependent, they instantly stood out from those around them thanks in no small part to the resolutely intellectual approach to writing largely taken by (widely published) psychology boffin and lead vocalist Frank Spinath. Their first album was pitched in the middle of the dark electro scene and was a decent enough (if unspectacular) opening salvo. However, they quickly moved forward from all the limiting aspects of the scene and come their third LP Double-Crosser they'd really come into their distinctive own. Over a 14 year period, in addition to the three studio albums, they also released a few singles and EPs. The last release a rarities compilation called When Black Beats Blue in 2009.
The critical reaction from the press was overwhelmingly positive and their emotional live shows entertained a steadily growing fan base. I, and I suspect many others, fully expected them to be the next big act on the scene. Then, abruptly, they rapidly disappeared. Co-founding member Frank Spinath emerged as one half of a new project, Ghost & Writer, suggesting Seabound was an idea abandoned before many would have said it achieved its full potential. Surprising and disappointing in equal measure. Then, as unexpectedly as they disappeared, Seabound reappeared on the live circuit and their label Dependent announced earlier this year that a long-overdue fourth studio album is scheduled for release later this year. This evening then would be a chance to hear some old favourites and an opportunity to sample some sneak previews of tracks from new album Speak In Storms.
Given their history, I was surprised there wasn't a bigger audience out for them tonight. Not that this appeared to either register or bother Spinath and co on stage. Spinath may be a man serious about his art but his genuine passion always creates a wonderful atmosphere at a Seabound gig. A combination of a mutual love-in and real appreciation from him that there are stalwart fans who will regularly turn out whenever the opportunity arises. This was nicely demonstrated for all to see, for in the weeks leading up to the gig, a fan posted a message on Flag Promotion's event page on Facebook for the night. She posted a message saying that she appreciated it was a long shot but that since it was her birthday tonight could she request a favourite song (Avalost). On stage, Spinath name-checked the woman (Catherine who was stood at his feet right in front of the stage), and her request and they promptly launched into the vocal version – which turned out to be one of the highlights of their set.
There's a shimmering, magical quality to their finest compositions, and they manage to recreate gorgeous and intricate compositions, like Soul Diver, live to emotional effect. The three new songs, For Life, Contraband and Nothing But Love show that, in spite of the long break between old and new material, the familiar (and desirable) Seabound characteristics remain intact, but there is also a welcome evolution in approach. The manner in which those new compositions (the entire set for that matter) were received, all implies that, whilst Seabound may not be the headline grabbing name many might have expected them to rise to, they are nevertheless one of the few acts who will always have an incredibly appreciative and dedicated audience waiting patiently, no matter how long it takes them get around to touring again. 8/10
Seabound setlist: For Life (new), Contact, Soul Diver, Exorcise, Posionous Friend, Avalost (vocal version), Contraband (new), Scorch The Ground, Nothing But Love (new), Hooked (Radical), Watching Over You, Domination, Torn, Castaway