Erland & the Carnival @ The Glee Club, Birmingham 19/02/2010
February 22, 2010 by Angela Slater
Touring their eponymous debut album, Erland & the Carnival played to a tiny but full and friendly room. Taking to the stage without much fuss, they opened with the first track on the album, ‘Love is a Killing Thing’ – a traditional folk song that builds up into a mad psychedelic whirl – then they launch straight into ‘My Name is Carnival’ by Jackson C Frank. It’s after this track (from which the band presumably takes its name) that we really feel like we’ve been introduced. There’s a short hello from front man Erland Cooper before the band delivers a loud, layered, melodic and thoroughly entertaining set.
Most tracks stay faithful to the album renditions and this works well. ‘Disturbed This Morning’s’ bass-heavy wig-out became studded with the snare and hand claps that introduce first single ‘Was You ever See’ – very satisfying and whipping up some enthusiasm with the crowd. ‘Derby Ram’ galloped along and current single, ‘You don’t have to be Lonely’ got the best reception of the evening. Simon Tong is perhaps the most senior member of the band and invited some curiosity, but he seemed happy to take a back seat in terms of performance, subtly leading the band from the rear with his confident and impeccable lead guitar. This left Cooper to do his thing; he is an extremely engaging front man with a performance style that’s a little unsettling; almost too intense at times. His assured approach and obvious joy of performing was complimented by David Nock’s cheery grin and playful percussion. Winding things up with ‘The Sweeter the Girl the Harder I Fall’, the band crashes into it’s built up close and go out with a bang.
With their collection of wonderfully crafted and re-worked tracks, band members from the best musical stock and a charismatic front man, Erland & the Carnival have every box ticked, but they need some room to breathe. If given some space and an audience that feels less stifled, their live performances could be truly phenomenal.