Gig Review and Photography by John Bentley

Midlake, Wolverhampton, 21-2-14

Usually, if a band loses its chief songwriter and frontman, that would be it. But, sometimes bands pull through – take Fleetwood Mac after Peter Green quit, for example. Last year Midlake lost its leader, Tim Smith. Instead of winding up the ensemble, guitarist and singer Eric Pulido was promoted to lead singer and the band pooled their songwriting talents. The resulting new album, ‘Antiphon’, has received good reviews, but how will the new Midlake come over live?

Horse Thief, Wolverhampton, 21-2-14

Support band Horse Thief are based in Oklahoma City and are label mates of The Flaming Lips. And very good their set is too. The music is a mix of jangling alt country / indie folk rock. They are melodic, and great musicians, who are clearly enjoying performing. Singer Cameron Neal has a good voice and a very impressive backwoodsman beard. I’ve no idea what the last song was, but it sounded a bit of a mini-epic.

Midlake, Wolverhampton, 21-2-14

Midlake take the stage with bright flashing strobes and intense backlighting. From the start this is clearly a confident band, not one nervous about having lost its leader. They launch into material from the new album, including the title track, ‘Antiphon’. The new album has elaborate production and the sound is pretty intense and it’s the same on stage tonight.

Midlake, Wolverhampton, 21-2-14

The Midlake I last saw perform in 2010, when Tim Smith was lead singer, is clearly recognisable in tonight’s gig, but they’re also a very different band. The bucolic log-cabin-in-the-snow-in-a-pine-forest ambience of their 2006 breakthrough album ’The Trials of Van Occupanther’ has gone. The characteristic vocal harmonies are still there, but the sound is heavier, rockier, less folky, less acoustic. The band now rely more on electronic keyboards (and there are nods to prog-rock), there is less use of massed guitars and overall the sound is harder. One of the most impressive new numbers tonight is the instrumental ‘Vale’, from the new album. This is majestic and orchestral, with some lovely flute playing.

Midlake, Wolverhampton, 21-2-14

Eric Pulido proves a confident frontman, with a strong voice that is not too dissimilar to the departed Smith. He does all the talking, not that there’s much. He tells an anecdote of how he had an altercation with some yobbos in Wolverhampton today, while walking round in shorts and a baseball cap. However, the enthusiastic and warm audience response here reassures him that this isn’t typical of the city!

Midlake, Wolverhampton, 21-2-14

Midlake are confident enough in the new material that it features heavily in the set, but there are good chunks of old audience-pleasing favourites, particularly selections from the ‘Occupanther’ album. In particular the beautiful song ‘Roscoe’ draws a cheer from the polite, and mainly mature, audience, as soon as the opening notes are played (apart from the one bloke who keeps yelling ‘Rock and Roll!’).

Midlake, Wolverhampton, 21-2-14

The evening ends with ‘Head Home’, another ‘Occupanther’ classic, finishing with a frenzied guitar solo. Overall, the old and new versions of the band have both been given an outing tonight and it really does seem to work. Having taken a new direction, while remaining still recognisable as the same band, it looks like Midlake have a bright future ahead.

Midlake, Wolverhampton, 21-2-14

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