I Am Kloot + The Chemist – The East Brunswick Club, Melbourne (17/02/2011)

Before arriving at the East Brunswick Club, I had been curious to see what size and type of crowd I Am Kloot, the Mancunian pop-rock three piece, would pull. The reason being not that this was a Thursday night, but that this was the group’s first trip to Australia, and their much lauded recent album, Sky at Night, is their first ever release in this country. It was therefore pleasantly surprising to arrive finding the venue filled to at least half capacity, although the familiar tones of Northern English accents were rife amongst a number of those at the bar.

The Chemist were all furrowed brows of concentration; sweat dripping from frontman Ben Witt’s forehead to guitar neck, which whirled about making figure eights in the air. The band were completely locked into their own groove, producing high-tension, at times beautifully restrained, at other times intense and raw, pop-rock; all built around the achingly glorious instrument that is Witt’s voice. Having spent a brief time residing in Melbourne over the past year, the four piece are about to return to their native Perth, and they would certainly seem to be a band worth watch closely over the next year or so.

As soon as The Chemist closed their set with their rockin’ cover of John Lennon’s How Do You Sleep, the crowd surged forward to secure their places for the main act. After a brief pause, some orchestral string music heralded the arrival of the main act who then took the stage. Singer John Bramwell quickly explained that jet lag is a sensation akin to being attacked by “time vampires”, before launching into From Your Favourite Sky, a crowd pleaser from 2003’s I Am Kloot. What followed was a set of very pleasant and faithful renditions of select numbers from the group’s entire back catalogue, with the crowd lapping up Bramwell’s every word and gesture. He apologised at one point for not being able to perform a shouted request from their latest album as it “involves about a 21-piece orchestra”, lamenting the fact that this time they couldn’t afford to bring over all the additional players that had been part of their UK tour.

I Am Kloot have been a band since 1999, and watching them together on stage, it is obvious the effect that all these years together have had. They conduct themselves with self-assurance, both in their material and in each other, which is particularly poignant when (admittedly unfairly) compared to the much younger opening band’s nervous, energetic concentration. The Kloot’s relaxed and natural stage presence is an admirable quality in a band of this particular style, a style which they have perfected over the course of six albums (seven counting a Peel Sessions CD), encompassing folk, pop, rock and a distinctive touch of jazz.

Throughout the night, Peter Jobson sits, hunched over his bass guitar, rocking gently back and forth, almost folding himself into his instrument. Andy Hargreaves meanwhile appears completely in control of his flailing limbs, exhibiting an impressive dynamic control which lends the band their jazzy flourishes, as he moves seamlessly from light snare taps to crashing cymbals to straight pounding rock and then back into jazz/blues shuffles. Throughout all of this, John Bramwell croons in his distinctively hoarse and nasally Mancunian accent, telling tales of desperation, drink, love, and the morning rain. He plays an acoustic guitar throughout the majority of the set, explaining that it was only possible to bring one this time, switching to electric on but a few notably louder tunes, such as the octave split, wah-wah rock anthem Life in a Day. Other highlights included his solo acoustic rendition of Still Do, from Sky At Night, a very energetic Twist (a song which features the classic opening lines ‘Twisted on destiny, fate and three wishes, we fuck and we fight, someone else does the dishes’), and the raw atmosphere of Storm Warning.

At this point the band attempted to leave the stage, however, as most people who’ve been to see a show at the East before will know, passage to the bandroom requires walking off the stage and through the pub. I Am Kloot clearly weren’t aware of this, as John Bramwell searched through curtain attempting to find a non-existent door. Failing this, the band dismounted the stage, as calls for an encore began to die give way to muttered confusion, and headed towards the Lygon Street exit, only to be stopped by a rather large Scottish lad who told the singer to “get back on the stage ya daft c##t”. A perplexed band promptly turned about face and returned to their instruments, issuing us a final farewell with the beautiful (and by the crowd response, popular) To You, all the while casting slightly worried and jet-lagged looks at this strange, foreign audience.

Before being allowed to exit the stage (this time aided by security), I Am Kloot promised to return to Australia, next time bringing with them their 21-piece orchestra, and, presumably, a second guitar.

Originally published on FasterLouder on 11/03/2011. View Original Article.

Photographs by Serena Ho. View photo gallery.

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