Words & pics by Ed King
Clasping a cold Guinness; shaking and angry from the absence of gloves, I turned to watch The Twilight Sad’s support – a suitably ‘wall of sound’ four piece called Let’s Wrestle.
‘You know you’re a prima donna when the dry ice hurts your throat’, quips the bass player (a deadpan mix between David Walliams and my friend’s brother Mike) before launching into another well meaning guitar thrash.
It’s a Sunday. Upstairs at the Hare & Hounds is freezing, and one hour ago I was warm, cozy and digesting a pie. Whilst I bless the joys of music journalism, The Twilight Sad’s gruff and rotund roadies install massive monitors where simply big had just been. I stamp my feet and look up. Tonight’s going to be loud.
Coming on stage under the searing guitar intro of ‘Kill It in the Morning’, The Twilight Sad didn’t pause before melting into their second track of the night – an unrecognisable six string barrage the set list called ‘Elfant’.
As the crowd edged towards the front half of the room, allowing strobe lights and the echo of tinnitus to fill the rest, a brief but endearing ‘hello, thanks for coming out’ escaped from front man James Graham, before closing his eyes on tiptoes to sing ‘That Summer, At Home I had Become The Invisible Boy’, The Twilight Sad’s first ever single.
Sporadic key melodies brought some lighter notes, literally, whilst the wall of sound continued to encase us. Graham continued to bounce, twirl and lose himself in his earphone monitors, whilst guitarist Andy McFarlane marched the rest of the stage through a proficient 12 track set; incorporating songs from all three studio albums.
A small lull between ‘Dead City’ and ‘Alphabet’, the first two tracks from their latest album – ‘No One Can Ever Know’, played in curious reverse order, allowed Graham’s vocals to become briefly more audible. Before the rock fromage descended in thick layers, bringing us mercilessly into ‘I Became a Prostitute’ – a melancholic stormer from their second album that sounded even better on stage.
Following with ‘Sick’, the latest single, The Twilight Sad then focused on new material, before closing with two tracks from previous albums; ‘And She Would Darken the Memory’ and ‘At the Burnside’. At points it was hard to tell where one ended and another began, a concurrent theme, and although an appreciated dénouement down the archives, it did take Graham three attempts to remember the lyrics to their final track.
The Twilight Sad’s sound is too big for a 200 capacity venue, but powerful to watch. Graham’s (cliché alert) raw energy and total belief floods off stage, supported by unobtrusive and well orchestrated musicians.
Carefully constructed, each track shows either personal pain or euphoria – a distinction perhaps only Graham and McFarlane can really know, and what I once wrote off as arrogance I now see as introverted sincerity.
Very loud. Very proud. Very polished. The Twilight Sad are what they are, and they are better heard live. Although that being said I’ve had them on Spotify since Sunday.
The Twilight Sad’s third album, ‘No One Can Ever Know’ is out now on Fat Cat Records. For more information visit http://www.thetwilightsad.com/
For more info and gigs from Birmingham Promoters visit http://www.birminghampromoters.com/