Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Tunng @ Band on the Wall, Tuesday 23rd March, 2010

Tonight is a nervy one for Tunng. It’s the first time they’ve performed the new material from ...And Then We Saw Land and they are without usual songwriter Sam Genders in a modified line-up. The nerves show early on; they don’t exude their usual buoyant, smiley selves until the set’s halfway point. Until then they are static; frozen by a collective nervousness and uncertainty with only infrequent glimmers of the confident finale to come.

Erland & the Carnival precede them. They’re a band with a name that suits their sound almost perfectly. With guitars set to steel drum sound, their carnival is of a twisted variety; I can picture The Chemical Brothers’ imposing clown image on a Ferris wheel at times in their music. There are also a whistled lament and Espers-esque chord changes, while references remain mostly in the indie pop range; The Coral and The Futureheads in places.

Tunng begin with new tunes ‘It Breaks’ and ‘Don’t Look Down or Back’, followed by the familiar triumphant strums of ‘Take’ and ‘Woodcat’ to settle into more of a rhythm. ‘October’ and ‘The Roadside’ signal a further sense of assuredness as more electronics, xylophone and melodica thicken the sound, but it is ‘By Dusk They Were in the City’ that really brings the sextet out of their shell. The announcement by Mike Lindsay that we have just heard the first electric guitar in Tunng’s live shows also wakes up the audience; a predictable, but witty, Bob Dylan's 1966 Manchester Free Trade Hall gig-referencing heckle of “Judas!” leads the way for the free flowing eccentricity that epitomises Tunng’s vibe.

‘Tale From Black’, an a cappella ‘These Winds’ and the summertime swayer of ‘Santiago’ welcome in the onstage looseness of movement that was previously lacking. Lindsay shows his support to BBC 6music’s cause before ‘Hustle’, a song on their radio playlist, and the encore of ‘Jenny Again’ and ‘Bullets’ offers a euphoric lift in direct contrast to the muted start.

Words: Ian Pennington
Images: Simon Bray

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