REVIEW: Ute, Arthur Rigby & the Baskervylles, I Am Harlequin – Liverpool Sound City 20/05/2011

Having braved the cold and rain for ‘The Kooks’ gig on the first night of SoundCity, the second evening was all about chilling out in the warmth with great live acts.  Kicking off the night, early doors at Zeligs courtesy of the hosts to network with everyone attending the shows later on; including bands themselves.  Review from Ste Smith

Friday at SoundCity. (The night after the night before.) 

First up on the list of venues was Heebie Jeebies, a local indie hotspot for gigs, with its mind-blowing basement bar, courtyard decking and upper floor area Heebies is a serious establishment for live acts in Liverpool.  Acts of the night included; ‘In Flight Safety‘, ‘Carmen Townsend‘ and ‘My First Tooth‘.

Starting the basement sessions was Oxford band UTE,  an indie/rock act playing an array of folk inspired ballads and indie songs.  ‘Bunker’ was a real treat, similar to ‘Radioheads – No Surprises’, it is a very eerie song but oddly euphoric and elegant at the same time.  Songs ‘Brother’ and ‘Innocent Tailor’ follow suit with their folk inspired melodies and edgy instrumentals.

The basement in Heebies is a thing of wonder with its red fairy lights, hidden bars, brick tunnel ways and booths it grabs the audience and shoves atmosphere and ambience down their throat (in a good way).  The venue complimented the style of UTE perfectly and made the gig, if possible, more enjoyable.  You know what they say “location location location”.

The soft lights of the basement bar proved far too much temptation for my delicate eyes, swaying me to stay on in Heebies to watch the next act and rest my woeful head.

Orchestral pop 8-piece ‘Arthur Rigby & the Baskervylles’ were next up, bringing on stage with them; a violin, saxophone, flute, trumpet, trombone and a beautiful stage presence.  It’s classic folk music with poetic lyrics, a range of instruments and musical skill.

‘Spies’ is a surprising blend of strings, synth, strong vocals and heartfelt lyrics from front man Benjamin. Sounding a lot like Tom Smith from ‘The Editors’, Ben possesses the type of voice that touches your soul and makes your hair stand on end, its deep, strong and boldly rich.  ‘White Houses’ is another song that’s embellished with the strength of Bens vocal, it has a smooth jazz feel with his coffee house acoustics.

What makes the Baskervylles so unique and in a different league is the fact they are a mini orchestra, they have a brass section, a strings section and a wind section. It may only be one person playing in that section, but live, it’s something other bands can’t compete with.

Leaf Café on Bold St was the last stop on day two of SoundCity, a relatively new establishment providing a cultural social hub for the city’s hipsters.  Mixing café, bar, and live acts with a modern and vintage atmosphere to create a space to showcase amazing talent.  On the listing was ‘The Suzukis’, ‘Les Aus’ and several others including ‘I am Harlequin’.

Acoustically I Am Harlequin are stunning, with a combination of the vocal intensity of Florence Welch and the melodic folk beats of Mumford & Sons their music is uplifting and quirky, beautiful and deep.  If you like ‘The XX – Islands’ then check out ‘Liberty’ its similar beat but softer sound make for really easy listening.  The song really shows off the ability of front woman Anne Freier (vocals, harp). There’s also a remix of Liberty that’s worth checking out (imagine if Florence had drank nine espressos in thirty-minutes and had access to a synthesizer).

“Psycho” is a very haunting song that sometimes slips into ‘Kate Bush – Wuthering heights’ territory.  Not a bad thing necessarily but quite haunting and striking.  Check out the Harp version online, it’s brilliant in its simplicity; just Anne and a harp.  Freier’s voice is honestly astounding, you’ll like her if you’re into ‘Marina and the Diamonds’ and love her if you’re a fan of ‘Florence and the Machine’.

If Florence and her machine and  Mumford & Sons had a musical protégé litter of babies who then grew up, picked up some instruments and started writing songs then ‘I am Harlequin’ would be that band.   They ended the second night of Soundcity for myself beautifully and serenely with a song called  ‘Radio Fire‘, an acoustic number that  is annoyingly catchy with its repetitive chorus of “Radio, radio, radio, radio, radio, radio fire”.

Photography: Nicola Denton

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