new hailu mergia (ex-walias band) album 'lala belu'
trio record with tony buck (the necks) on drums and cymbals and mike majkowski on bass. a jazzier take on the ethiopique sound with mergia on accordion, piano (not unlike emahoy tsegué-maryam guèbrou's solo piano sound) and keyboards.
Pitch Or Honey
Last Lion Of Albion
Deep Red Bells
Margaret Vs. Pauline
Curse Of The I-5 Corridor
Oracle Of The Maritimes
Look For Me (I'll Be Around)
Halls Of Sarah
Hold On, Hold On
This Tornado Loves You
this was a good gig overall, at times great and occasionally excellent. if that sounds slightly like faint praise, it's my fault. I hadn't seen neko since her crawdaddy gig which was probably 10+ years ago. the albums she's released since then have got progressively better and a number of their songs have taken on deeper, personal associations and resonances for me. so my hopes and expectations were pretty high for tonight, maybe unfairly so.
there was a 6-piece band backing her up, of which i only recognised pedal-steel guitarist jon rauhouse. the others were guys playing bass, drums and guitar/keys, and two gals - rachael and shelley - both on guitar/backing vocals/tambourine (no kelly hogan, alas).
setlist was a good mix of c.two-thirds of the newest album, a good few from each of the previous three, and some older tunes. the renditions we're all fairly faithful to the album versions which is the main reason the gig failed to really ignite for me. a number of them had potential for the band to stretch out a bit but they never took the opportunity.
the version of 'man' was great. they cranked up the speed and intensity significantly compared to the album version, but the fact that there were 5 guitars, plus bass and drums, probably allowed them to do that. the tunes with different instrumentation didn't afford them as much scope and came across as well rehearsed but just that.
a couple of the tunes also noticably lacked something vs. the album versions e.g. the horns on 'ragtime', the 7-beat jabs at the end of 'winnie' which were clunky rather than punchy, and mark lanegan's (or any baritone) voice on 'i-5 corridor'.
a couple of the tunes - 'oracle of the maritimes' and 'hell-on' spring to mind - definitely gained something in the live setting, the latter an amazing high-pitched, three-part siren harmony.
and in case you think there weren't any real high points, we got a beautiful version of 'calling cards' and an unexpected run through 'the pharaohs', two of my favourite songs of hers. 'city swans' was also on my bet-she-won't list, but you can't have it all.
finally, they probably should have finished the set with 'ragtime', or played one more before it, as the version of 'this tornado loves you' seemed a bit ragged and misplaced.
house sound and production were excellent and there were some nice touches from the lighting engineer. real pleasure to be part of a listening, seated audience. I'll try to manage my expectations better in future if neko tries to get here a little more often.