Words by John Noblet / Pics by Jonathan Morgan
When dispatched by Birmingham Review to a gig I don’t always make it in time to see the support band, something I feel vaguely guilty about. However in this instance, being late might have been the better option.
Missing Batsch, I did catch Amateur Best – with a live show that consists of him standing behind a load of music gear with wires coming out of it; then singing over the aforementioned machines and occasionally playing a brass instrument, which I think is a bugle. The bugle is a nice touch and gets everyone’s attention when he starts playing it at the beginning of the opening track. However it soon goes away, and I am afraid to say so does my interest in his performance.
The backing, coming from whatever it is Amateur Best has up there, is pleasant enough sounding House; broken up with the odd, tastefully chosen James Blake style bass wobble or Hip Hop beat. Amateur Best sings in a way that is entirely technically correct, but for me, does nothing to spark emotional involvement. There’s a vague, air brushed melancholy to it all that seems to suggest the poor lad may have had some girlfriend trouble at some point.
It may seem like I’m being overly mean, but all the elements of what Amateur Best was doing on stage added up to not much at all. I feel bad saying that about an artist who’s still in the early stages of his career, but it’s the truth. Or my truth at least.
And I’ve got no problems with solo performers going on stage with nothing more than a bit of technical wizardry and a mic. But a lack of other musicians up there means your music should be particularly striking and/or your onstage charisma sky high.
Amateur Best is lacking in both departments tonight; and as much as I try to find something to enjoy, I instead struggle with the kind of bitchy, irritable boredom that makes me ‘overly mean’. Like observing his outfit and hairdo resembles one of the nice guys on Hollyoaks, and how on earth someone thought this was good enough to tour with so much promotional backing. Catty, right? Possibly. I did warn you.
Outfit fare better. Musically, they belong to that post-Hot Chip school of left field pop with a touch of MGMT about the vocals. Added to this is a distinctly post Punk flavour, right down to the neat dark shirts the band wear (buttoned to the neck obviously) and the minimal lighting, which involves barely any house lights and a few desk lamps dotted around the stage. Though hardly an original trick, it does seem to suit their slightly shy stage presence.
The music itself is meticulously constructed; mid pace rhythms building tension, whilst the keyboards, guitars and what-not, push the dynamics to some lovely sounding peaks – all with a distinctly chemical fizz to them. The vocals fit nicely in the mix, with some good melodies, and the idea of Outfit one day having a big hit one day seems plausible, even if they’ve yet to write it. Outfit fit nicely into that Indie-with-synths niche which seems to be endlessly popular.
However (and you knew there was a ‘however’ coming about two paragraphs ago) this is not enough for me. I don’t want music to sterilise and compartmentalise every negative emotion, encasing it in a trendy looking case. And that’s what’s happening tonight.
The intricate layers and delicately built crescendos serve to obscure Outfit’s point, rather than express it more clearly. They come across as a band whose music is so relentlessly self studied, analysed, mulled over and tweaked, that there’s barely any passion or urgency left in it.
And that’s the crux of the issue – do you go to a gig because you want to nod your head to some nice music, or because you’re looking for some borderline transcendental experience? Something slightly bewildering and terrifying that explores feelings you might not be ready to admit you had?
Personally, I go to gigs for the latter. I go because at the right time and place, live music can open you up to vistas of unimaginable wonder.
Outfit undoubtedly make some good music, and I’m sure for some people they’re the perfect ‘date band’; but for me, I’m afraid, there’s just not enough in it tonight.
For more on Outfit, visit http://www.everynightidressupasyou.com
For more on Amateur Best, visit http://www.amateurbest.co.uk
For more on Batsch, visit https://www.facebook.com/batschmusic
For further listings at the Hare & Hounds, visit http://hareandhoundskingsheath.co.uk