Review by Glenn Raybone with Photography by Kat Storey

Caravan Palace

It’s a night where the first sign of winter is here. It’s cold, we’ve had the first frost and whilst queuing outside the Academy (do they EVER open their doors on time?) it starts to rain.

Caravan Palace

Once inside the sight of a table centre stage with what appears to be decks fills me with dread. Surely not another DJ as support? As it turns out Greg x VDV are two Parisians, one plays vocal outtakes and the other overlays a beat courtesy of a drum machine. It’s quite effective, but after ten minutes we’ve got the gist and after forty I’m regretting arriving early.

Caravan Palace

Of course what I’m here to see is Caravan Palace, who came to my attention on a recent appearance on Later. They were simply electric and like nothing I’d heard before and I just had to see them live. They initially only played a one-off date in London but thankfully have added more dates, tonight being Birmingham and their first ever visit to the ‘Second City’.

Caravan Palace

Caravan Palace are six multi-instrumentalist, who change instruments, and when not playing they either dance or motivate the crowd to clap along. There’s electronic instruments, keyboards, acoustic guitar, saxophone, clarinet, violin, upright bass, even an upright piano, and I’m confident there are some instruments I’ve missed out. Orchestrating and pulling everything together is member number seven, the diminutive Zoe Colotis, who skips out in a rah-rah skirt and black hold-up stockings. Her vocals are perfect, as is her English, and given all members are French not a word is spoken in their mother-tongue.

Caravan Palace

The brilliant, and popular, ‘Lone Digger’ is played very early in the set and soon has the sparse crowd swaying and hand waving but this isn’t enough for Caravan Palace. They tell us they want new members and “if you want to join us you have to sing” before a rousing version of ‘Black Betty’, with superb crowd participation. However Zoe isn’t done yet and she then gets the whole building jumping up and down, with the whole band in unison. I’ve seen the Prodigy in this same venue and there was less crowd action for them, so to see such engagement for such a small crowd really was quite something.

Caravan Palace

The set is just over seventy minutes, and at times the instrumental tracks do make you desire for some vocals, but this is soon dispersed when they start dancing and there were moves tonight which would easily get a ‘severrrrn’ from Len Goodman. It’s brilliant to watch.

Caravan Palace

So how can you describe Caravan Place? Well start with some 1920’s swing, add some funk, some jazz, some electronic beats and you’re sort of there, but better still next time they play go and experience them live, a true party band who get everyone moving, even if it’s a nod of the head or tap of the toe.

Caravan Palace

I was surprised to see the venue about half-full, if that, and I’m not sure if it’s the weather, ticket costs, the onset of Christmas (oops sorry I said the C word and it’s still November) or if the good people of Birmingham haven’t latched on to Caravan Palace yet. If it’s the latter they’re really missing a treat! C’mon folks get listening, and come and see them. You will have one of the best live gigs without doubt!

Caravan Palace

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