The Maccabees / Michael Kiwanuka / Alt -J - LSO St Luke’s - 2012
07 Nov 2012
"The show served as a total triumph for considered guitar music, which exemplified it's current intelligence and passion in an intimate setting which allowed those that cared to witness the intricacies of the songs and the sense of purpose and meaning in the artists..."
We’re writing this after the fact, Alt-J have done the expected and taken home the Mercury Music Prize for album of 2012 and it’s a deserved victory that must not only be seen as an achievement for guitar music but also a nod for moving against the status quo. Regardless of where the bookies placed their odds, it would’ve been an easy decision for the powers that be to have handed the award to an artist that had done their utmost to be relevant, in both a commercial and political sense, in 2012 and in turn used music to it’s full potential in both realms yet those in charge still chose to go for a band that are perceived to be, whether you agree or not, as being an intellectual leftfield punt that may have, and possibly still could, leave egg on their faces and another failed promise in the history books.
These musings ultimately become irrelevant when looking at the line up on offer tonight, one that is as subversive as it is completely on the money for what is happening in music right now. The bands boast a breadth that encapsulates most realms of current, popular alternative music with Michael Kiwanuka’s soulful earnest take on the classics, Alt J’s inventive and all encompassing look at indie through the ages (future included) and The Maccabees all conquering progression as one of the most important and inspiring guitar bands going.
Alt-J kick of proceeding and serve up exactly what one would’ve hoped, but it’s an abstract concept of our own imaginations of how the band would perform live. They’re a well oiled machine and play their songs with an intelligence and understanding that serves as a perfect reminder of why their record is so well admired, why it’s accolades, hype and fanfare are all so well deserved. Never before has it been easier to appreciate the stillness of a band, we’re so accustomed to seeing artists throw themselves around the stage either to exemplify a raw passion for their music or simply to sell their own technical inadequacies. Alt-J exists in a state of stillness because their music is the key – on record they’re so genre defying and, in some ways, complicated that to see them recreate it note for note is something particularly special and it’s impossible to watching in anything but wonderment at what they’re able to achieve sonically. The will go onto win this Mercury Award and performances like tonight don’t only justify their victory but make it some absolutely bloody obvious.
Kiwanuka kicks of proceedings in the might fine settings of this London church and offers all that one would hope and expect from the singer-songwriter, his voice considered and thoughtful, his guitar playing true and pure, his songs as honest and wonderful as is seemingly possible in his chosen art form. Kiwanuka’s is a sound so close to the artists he loves and admires it’s a near certainty they’d of respected his efforts had they of heard him play in their own time and there’s something about this thoughts that creates a further purity and relevance to his music both timeless and vital. He’s a master in the art of hope and believing and his is a sound that will continue to live on just as it always has with the same integrity and pride in which he plays the songs tonight. Live, Kiwanuka exists in his own orbit, their may be others creating similar sounds but not touch his sheer ability and humanity and it feels as special to see him play the songs and it does to hear them. As his eyes close you can hear his thoughts, as his voice rises you feel his empowerment and in his silence one can understand him nearly as well as in his words.
To finish the night we have The Maccabees and their show feels like a celebration entirely in its own right. The band play with such passion and intensity that one is immediately transported to the place they first heard each individual track, to the situation each individual song has helped them understand better and it’s a triumphant from the very first time Orlando Weeks voice eases it’s way out of the PA. It’s one of those sets that make you remember just how many brilliant songs they have as well as how much you like each and every one of them. For a band born out of a indie landfill, The Maccabees currently sound like no other and live they’re near untouchable. Given To The Wild is an exceptional record, Wall Of Arms is a complete breakthrough and their debut Colour It In remains one of the most charming indie records of the past decade. It's Given To The Wild the band pull most of their material from tonight and tracks like 'Pelican' offer a mature and powerful sound rendering them completely essential.
Tonight served as a total triumph for considered guitar music, which exemplified it's current intelligence and passion in an intimate setting which allowed those that cared to witness the intricacies of the songs and the sense of purpose and meaning in the artists. All three of these acts would've deserved to take home the Mercury and we're certain Alt-J's win was applauded by both Kiwanuka and The Maccabees just as they would've applauded the others such is the strength of community in the collected effort for something as simple as the recognition of good music, a concept that Mercury still and always will, get completely spot on.