Slow Club + Happyness
Monday 16th February
Arts Club, Liverpool
Slow Club are that rare breed of band. Three albums deep, they’ve not just perfected a sound, but quite masterfully evolved it to a new level. 2014’s Complete Surrender was a slickly produced collection that both harked back to their folksy roots and brought in influences from decades past, which makes it all the more interesting that it escaped the public’s attention somewhat last summer. But not tonight, as there’s a swirling crowd of fans in the upstairs of Liverpool’s Arts Club ready to savour every moment. Touring buddies Happyness provide a low-key but elegant sounding support. It captures the audience’s attention completely, and you can see the trio having the potential to become many people’s new favourite band this summer.
Bounding on to the stage in a surprising amount of wool for such a warm venue, Slow Club break out the new album early, starting with the delicate Tears of Joy. With the transition to a pop sound that often borders on the grandiose, it was a wonder how this would translate to the live stage. Past Slow Club tours have included a backing group beyond the usual guitars and keys, but with this being a strictly four-man-band set up. As such, the more powerful songs from the new album took on a fresh new twist.
The titular track for instance - which could easily be mistaken for an opening credits track from a 60s spy thriller - takes a more low-key approach, stripping it back and adding in some jazzy elements. While it would be nice (if not a little implausible) to see the string and horn arrangements played out, with some of these songs being seven months old to some fans, the new versions are a refreshing change of pace.
For a band that are publicly a duo, they’re a remarkably fluid band on stage. Rebecca and Charles may share the vast majority of the limelight, but as multi-instrumentalists they find themselves shuffling between instruments quite readily. At times the whole band but one will disappear, giving an opportunity for a solo ballad. At another point, with Charles tucked away in a corner on keys and Rebecca taking a turn on drums, it leaves the touring guitarist to take front and centre stage. It’s a confidence in allowing others to shine that just adds an extra edge to an already scintillating live show.
In fact, Slow Club are as close to a full package as you’re ever going to see in a band. Not just content with transferring their songs into exciting live renditions, their stage presence is electric. They’re funny in between songs, riffing on each other and the audience. It really does feel like they’re loving every moment on stage.
To find some fault, it’s all a little on the brief side. It manages to barely scratch over the hour mark after a couple of encores. While this could be understandable for a rising band with a single album to their name, you feel Slow Club’s back catalogue could’ve been dug into a few more times to provide a little more than just the well-known tracks.
But ultimately, it’s the second encore that best indicates what Slow Club are all about. After seemingly ending on a rousing note with second album stunner ‘Two Cousins’, the foursome quietly sneak into the centre of the audience - guitars in hand - to perform an acoustic version of ‘The Pieces’. It’s unique, fresh, and puts a whopping big smile on your face. As evidenced once again by their joyful back-and-forth with the now-surrounding crowd, it’s clear that just like every other moment of the gig, this is for the fans.
Review by Hugh Roberts
Image courtesy of Slow Club