Slow Club @ Colston Hall, Bristol, 25/11/2013

Slow ClubWhen you wander noisily into a gig and expect a chattering, sweaty crowd but are greeted with rows of civilised people sitting on seats, it’s a little startling. This is Slow Club on a special two-piece tour: in other words, they’re playing slower, quieter versions of their songs, because they’ve ditched the instruments which noisy them up. It’s nice because they’re easier to appreciate when your feet aren’t aching and you can actually see.

Instead of battling for the audience’s attention, support act CA Smith has little difficulty in silencing the room and concentrating ears his way. The raspy-voiced American croons story songs with titles like “We’re All Going to Die” with an overarching feeling that doom is impending and a voice like Beans on Toast, if the beans were supermarket own instead of Heinz. He searches intriguingly for a balance between depressing and entertaining but most of all wins points for the abundance of facial hair decorating his face.

When they first appear to polite applause, Slow Club, aka Charles Watson and Rebecca Taylor, seem timid. At the beginning it’s as though they’re unenthused to be here, but it becomes clear that they come across nonchalant because they’re shy. “It’s really intimidating how quiet people are,” Rebecca says before filling a room silent by pin-dropping standards with the sound of a very delicately strummed guitar and high notes wavering with sterling conviction.

At the start, the stripped-down simplicity of the songs they play is captivating. Charles controls his voice strikingly; with a voice boasting a notes and talk of love and losing it all in “Panama and Paraguay” he showcases his magnificence with a few minutes of tender crooning. However it soon emerges that this is less of a Slow Club effort than it is members of Slow Club performing solo songs. The limelight swivels between the two of them occasionally widening to fit in the both. Though they’re good on their own, it’s this joint effort which makes Slow Club as impressive as they are: at points the set gets a bit samey but when they sing together their voices intertwine beautifully.

Contrasted throughout by tales of messing up songs, an abrasive sarcasm-heavy sense of humour and a moment of awkwardness when someone requests that they play a fast one (and they say no), Slow Club’s set is certainly entertaining. But even though the end comes in the form of a climatic encore featuring a slowed down, acoustic version of “Two Cousins”, you can’t help but wonder if they’d been better off saying yes to playing a fast one. Part of the Slow Club magic is owed to the fact that a lot of the time they sound like they’re having such a good time. This set is a success when it comes to showing off their talents – it’s just a shame that in losing the backing band, they lose that element of fun, too.

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