Cecil Sharp House, London

6 December 2014

The Moulettes' drummer drums and plays guitar at the same time.

And that isn't even the most ridiculous thing about the Moulettes.

Seriously, who says "we've got a bassoon, an electric cello and a drummer (who plays guitar at the same time). We'd better start a band"? It's crazy... so crazy that it just might work...

So here we are in beautiful Cecil Sharp House, and I wonder if half the crowd knows quite what's going to hit it. The band opt for a standing gig, so have had the seats taken out, which, judging by the chatter in the foyer, seems to bemuse the staff and annoy some of the punters (who I asume have come along for their regular Saturday night folk gig and don't yet know what's about to hit them).

Because the Moulettes are not a folk band by any stretch of the imagination. Oh, sure, there are bits of folk in their music, just as there are bits of classical influences and bits of many other influences. But Moulettes are prog rock. If you don't believe me, ask the guy at the front in the Marillion t-shirt (no, it wasn't me) what he thinks. They sit right in the exact centre of the venn diagram of all the things I like, which goes some way towards explaining why this is my new favourite band. It's odd to realise that I only heard of them a few months ago and have only seen them four times (including tonight) because I'm waiting with the sense of anticipation I normally feel for bands I have followed for years, and each song they sing tonight feels like an old favourite.

So the stage at Cecil Sharp house, which I had previously thought quite large, is barely adequate to hold the seven (occasionally nine) Moulettes plus about nine microphones (because all of them sing) plus the sixteen or so instruments they play between them (don't believe me? Count them: cello, violin, another violin, guitar, electric guitar, another guitar, double bass, bass guitar, harp, bass clarinet, autoharp (played by two different people), keyboard (played by two different people), bassoon, drums (played by two different people at the same time), french horn, tambourine, xylophone, shaky egg) plus the massive battery of electronics. I haven't seen so many electronics on one stage since the last John Cage concert I went to. Everybody seems to have a set of effects pedals. I mean, who uses effects pedals with a bassoon? But this band doesn't do things that normal bands do. They stand unique and unmatched among all the many live bands I have seen in 30 years of live gigs.

All these musicians and instruments let them recreate the intricate music found on their CDs, but actually better than on the CDs. This is an astonishingly good live band, individually seven virtuoso musicians and singers, and together an incredibly tight ensemble that never stumbles no matter how complex the arrangement gets and how many times they have to change instrument within a song and even if they have to play drums and guitar at the same time. It's beautiful to the ears, but it's also beautiful to watch and try to understand how they create this incredible music, who plays what and who sings what.

But it's not all technical complexity for the sake of showing off technical complexity. There's an emotional intensity in the songs which... well, as I said, already they feel like old favourites. I love all of these songs.

And apart from the music, the band possesses all the other elements which make great gigs. The rambling and eccentric introductions, the clap-along parts (and also, while it's common for bands to ask you to clap, the Moulettes are the only band I've ever known who tell us when we have to stop clapping!), the impression that they're having fun on stage, an easy and unaffected connection with the audience, even little things like how they recover from forgetting the lyrics of a brand new song. It's... well, it's everything I want from a gig.

Am I starting to repeat myself? It's because I'm running out of ways to praise this band. Sorry if it's a bit incoherent. I don't know how to convince you how good they are. My new favourite band, literally the best new band of the millennium, and tonight was simply (and truthfully) the best concert I've ever seen.

[Site Home Page] Home
[Review Index Page] Review Index