Amazingly, the weather gods were kind to the MAC’s outdoor arena on Saturday night; perhaps they wanted to listen, too. It was certainly something worth hearing.
I arrived slightly late after a grapple with the ticket dispensing kiosk. The kiosk won, but I complained to the management, who let me in anyway. I’ve never been to the MAC outdoor arena before. I can only describe it as a small amphitheatre, with concrete seats ramped up all around. You almost expect to see very small gladiators taking on mini-lions in the large, open space in front of the stage.
Sheelanagig were already in full swing, though the space in front of the stage remained empty. Not for long. The flautist leaped from the stage over to the few of us latecomers who were standing sheepishly at the doorway, and began pointing out empty seats, while still playing. I hope they paid him extra for that.
Having spotted the inimitable Dr When amongst the crowd, I took a seat with him (urged on by the flautist) and settled down to hear the rest of the set. And a fantastic set it was too. This is the band that should have done the soundtrack to Neil Gaiman’s ‘Mirrormask’. A slightly sinister blend of gypsy- circus-balkan drinking songs, performed by some very talented individuals. Talented in unexpected ways, too – for example, the guitarist also walks on his hands (he did put the guitar down, first). A double-bassist and drummer formed the spine of the band, while a very talented (and mobile) violinist also performed with afore-mentioned flautist and guitarist.
This was an incredibly active band, full of energy, and a great accompaniment to The Destroyers. A shame that their last number was cut short by an alarm and an evacuation of the arena! Come back to B’ham soon, please!
Once we were allowed back into the arena, and had ascertained that the geese and swans on the neighbouring lake were not mounting any form of aerial assault, The Destroyers were quickly on the stage. Initial sound pops and terrifying ‘wire wrapped around the leg’ moments were a little ominous, but very soon they were on form, lab coats and fluorescent socks akimbo.
It’s a little hard to describe The Destroyers without mentioning the word ‘energy’. ‘Lightning in a jar’ may be a closer description. The 15 of them leap and charge, exhort and compel, perform dizzying feats of finger-tangling musicianship, and don’t seem to get out of breath. Paul Murphy’s story telling is set off perfectly by the dramatic and frenetic rhythms, riffs and melodies that are effortlessly spun out of the air.
If I have any complaints, I have to say that given the size of some of the stages I’ve seen them on, I was surprised that they looked a little squished. I’ve also heard slightly better sound mixes; some of the exquisite melodies that I know are there were a little inaudible, perhaps lost to the night in the open-air arena and delivered straight to the ears of the weather gods? But they were still fantastic. They played for over an hour, even though it seemed like minutes. Somehow they still had fingers left at the end.
We wanted more. Sadly, the curfew meant there was no more to be had. We went home, still twitching to ‘Clown Slayer’.
So, when’s the next gig?