Gig Review by Daron Billings / Gig Photography by Wayne Fox

Goodnight Lenin

With their much anticipated debut album still being mixed and just a few festival shows lined up this year (albeit including Glastonbury and Moseley Folk Festival) 2013’s been relatively low key for Goodnight Lenin so far. ‘Low key’ certainly isn’t a phrase you’d apply to tonight’s show though, their first headline appearance since selling out Birmingham Cathedral last December…

First up though Howie Payne, former lead singer of underrated country tinged Liverpudlian combo The Stands.

Howie Payne

Now solo he’s still pursuing the same musical path, stripped of the rest of the band it’s a simpler affair now, perfectly suited to Payne’s laid back style. Pick of the set Some Believer, Sweet Dreamer marries Band Of Gold era Neil Young and to that jauntier Scouse sound of The Coral and Howie’s own former band, whilst the 60’s movie soundtrack feel of Forever In Blue (“I’ll have to get a black polo neck to go with that one” mulled Payne) showed a surprisingly different side.

Howie PayneHowie Payne

Elsewhere there were hints of the fragile beauty of John Martyn’s best work. A beautifully intimate opening slot from a hidden gem.

From the first note this evening it’s clear than Goodnight Lenin have been in the gym, musically speaking at least, beefing up their sound and pushing themselves further than they’ve gone before with some impressive (but radically different) new tracks (more on these later).

Goodnight Lenin

Opening number, Ode To Rebellion, is an old favourite but whether it was the venue, the sound guy (kudos to John Nash for doing a cracking job this evening) or those buffed up musical muscles it sounded huge tonight, the combination of John Joe’s edgy fiddle and Sam’s aggressive drumming providing the epic sounding foundations for Liam and John’s trademark twin harmonies.

Goodnight LeninGoodnight Lenin

This heavier sound, more noticeable on some tracks than others, and a slightly more aggressive style of playing ran through all of the Lenin’s more familiar stuff this evening, with A Cautionary Tale benefitting hugely from having the meaty organ (insert your own Carry On style innuendos here) more prominent in the mix and Edward Colby getting a healthy injection of steroids. Even the slower more reflective stuff sounded phatter (yeah, I’m down wiv da kids) as evidenced on Tell Tale Heart’s mid section, serving up the perfect balance of light and shade beautifully.

Goodnight Lenin

Some things haven’t changed though and the natural in between song banter (“It’s all scripted really” joked John Joe) produced more chuckles than some stand ups get in their whole careers. Somehow it never interferes with the music though. In fact it’s this lightening of the mood that adds weight to Fell’s more world weary and reflective stuff.

Goodnight Lenin

The biggest treat of the night though were the new songs. You Were Always Waiting’s late period Beatles meets CSNY…Lenin go Lennon anyone?…could well be one of their best songs to date. Is it just me or could anyone else imagine a huge gospel choir coming in towards the end of this one? Thanks to the band’s habit of rarely introducing the name of the songs I’m guessing the title of the other big newbie, Tiny Moon? Anyway, whatever it was called it sounded like a different band altogether.

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I scribbled down the words ‘Nights In White Satin on speed’, but I’d had a few ciders by then. It’s the rockiest, most out there track they’ve ever attempted…but it sounded awesome. “We don’t know where that came from” observed John Fell afterwards, neither did most of the audience but I’m guessing they’d like to hear more of it.

Goodnight Lenin

This could leave the band with a bit of a dilemma. Their much vaunted debut album’s still not appeared and this radical shift in direction might just hold things up further if they decide to bring more of this kind of material in. Hmmmm…tricky. It’s a nice problem to have in a way though. Bands that aren’t evolving can tend to have a limited shelf life but judging by tonight’s show the best could still be yet to come…

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Goodnight Lenin

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