Q Tour – Lorien, Athlete, Alfie & Ed Harcourt

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Concert Review by Kris Griffiths

Due to the relatively short notice at which this new Q magazine tour had been announced, the opening night’s crowd is unsurprisingly sparse and sedate. With the Empire being such a cosy little venue, usually packed with punters like sardines in a crushed tin box, it feels a bit strange to secure a spacious balcony spot right next to the bar. With bar service a finger click away I enjoy a perfect panoramic view of the stage and a dance floor where each spectator has enough room to swing two large cats around their head with both arms. Not only with space and time on our sides, we are also treated to the rare delight of the Q music channel on a gigantic screen – a masterstroke by the organizers. After suffering the pained melodies of giant Nickelbacks and Stereophonics, the quality of the real bands playing live appear to increase by a factor of ten.

Opening band Lorien, bless them, stroll humbly onto the stage and ease gently into their first tune. Then frontman Fabio picks up his acoustic guitar, sits on a stool, and they ease gently into the next one, and then the next, and so on until their short set is over. Debut single SHIVERING SUN does sound quite majestic in the superior acoustics of this venue, as does the delicate GHOSTLOST. Throughout their set the Radiohead parallels are as noticeable as Thom Yorke’s lazy eye: a chorus chord change mirrors the same in BLACK STAR from THE BENDS whilst guitarist Einar visibly replicates the jagged low-swinging style of Jonny Greenwood. A pleasant performance all round, but, perhaps, a bit too pleasant.

The resounding low-keyness of Lorien only serves to heighten the impact of following band Athlete, who launch instantly into their Xfm-tastic hit ROCK SCENE. This pretty much sets the tone for the rest of their impressive show, epitomised by an animated keyboardist with a myriad of strange noises at his fingertips. He even has one of those weird instruments you wave your hands in front of to make a high-pitched wailing sound, used to great effect for a mid-set stonker of a tune. On the merits of this display Athlete should soon be sprinting miles ahead of their Indie competitors.

Then there follows the amusing Alfie, with their show of forced shambolicness: the frontman’s couldn’t-give-a-shit stage style, the brass band members casually smoking cigarettes between blasts on their horns and then random blokes strolling on and off the stage between songs. Musically sound – maybe, entertaining – without a doubt.And finally we witness the haughty entry of multi-instrumentalist Harcourt and his extensive band. Weirdly enough, hardly any of the crowd seem to respond to his offerings save for three idiots right in the middle of the floor who insist on moshing to everything, ballads and all. The select tracks from HERE BE MONSTERS are executed with style, GOD PROTECT YOUR SOUL in particular, but his plodding new material is greeted with the silence it deserves. After a couple of new slowies, a perplexed Harcourt even has to deal with some doses of heckling thrown his way. He manages to pull through it all quite professionally though, quietly impressing those who chose to see him through and leave. However I must confess I made a dash for it before the encore. No hard feelings Ed – just lay off the snooze-inducers next time.