The New Adelphi, Hull
29th September 2013
Classic rock band Art Brut barnstorm their visit Hull’s New Adelphi.
My first time at the New Adelphi in Hull. I’d been told it was tiny but it’s much smaller than that, one of those proper little rock and roll venues the are disappearing fast. It’s basically an end terrace with the downstairs rooms knocked into one, bright blue and pink walls, a mural at the back of the stage and an array of lights hanging from the ceiling that look like they were made out of catering jam tins.
There are concrete beams in the roof, one of which passes directly above the front of the stage, causing lead singer and extreme ironist in chief Eddie Argos to raise a hand to ascertain its location at the start of each song before essaying one of his trademark pogos. As a six foot fourer who has had to wear a stupid looking collar on three occasions as a result of low ceilings I worry for him.
Openers on the night are local guitar and drum duo The Glass Delusion whose set is made up of great, fast, loud one minute songs about literature, the importance of not being buried alive and their disdain for tribute acts. Great fun and I’m nominating them for a special award as the band who sound least like their web material when you hear them live. Following on are La Bete Blooms, usually a five piece, tonight playing as a four, harmonic post punk tinged with some delicate pop sensibility. It’s a great bill put together by Screaming Tarts who bring a lot of good music over to the east coast where god knows we need it.
Having arrived at the gig knowing that I liked Art Brut what takes me by surprise when they arrive on stage is how much I like them. They manage to go from being an amusing band that I rather like and approve of to being one of my favourites in the space of the set. I think this is because I’d mostly though of them up to now as ironists. I hadn’t really appreciated what a good noise they make and what a barnstorming over the top show performance we were in for.
On CD the band are almost subdued, mostly present to service the lyric but live they are tight, wild, disciplined and raucous, not by turns but all at the same time which is a tough combination to pull off. Proceedings are inevitably dominated by front man Eddie Argos, who delivers his lines with the accompaniment of an impressive repertoire theatrical gurning and gesticulation.
All the favourites are there – including Formed A Band, Emily Kane and My Little Brother but best song of the night is the newest Arizona Bay, a nod in the direction of Bill Hicks which has a great deranged swagger to it. The spoken interludes and commentaries which last only a few seconds on CD become extended monologues lasting several minutes in some cases. During Modern Art he steps down from the stage and out into the crowd, having everyone sit or crouch down while he leans over them and exuberantly narrates the story of his visit to the Van Gogh Museum like a particularly enthusiastic nursery teacher trying to whip some enthusiasm into story time.
The irony is still a big part of the show of course – not just the straightforward stuff either but a special kind of multilayered reflexive irony which has always been present in their work -‘This is my real singing voice, I’m not being ironic’ Argos declaims on Formed A Band.
During his Modern Art soliloquy he explains to the audience that he has lost the thread of the story and has improvised himself into a corner he doesn’t know how to get out of, only to admit a few moments later when the laugh has been won that in fact he knows exactly where he is headed because the impression of spontaneity is of course an artifice and the same monologue, including this bit, can be found word for word on the CDs available (at remarkably good prices) on the table to our left.
Most importantly the band look like they’re having a great time. Argos points out that they have two new members on board and he takes great delight in confounding them by departing from the set list for what appear to be unrehearsed songs. ‘Play one the drummer knows’ someone shouts from the back during a moment of confusion. Argos enjoys it too and repeats it in case anyone missed out. It’s my favourite heckle at a gig in ages and all the more enjoyable because of the sneaking suspicion that maybe nobody shouted it at all and Argos just made it up and it’s part of the regular show.