Twin Shadow: Crawdaddy, Dublin

Released late last year Twin Shadow’s album Forget went straight to the top of many best of year lists, effortlessly earning its place. The debut from Dominican Republic born, Florida raised and Brooklyn reborn George Lewis Jr revealed itself as an instant success in slow-release chillwave Anglo pop. Softly sung bittersweet nostalgia, a magpie ear for 80’s pop hooks, wonky vintage synths and drum machines colluded in a work of haunted beauty. Musically and vocally Lewis was unafraid to revel in unashamed homage to heroes, but…and here is the crux: there was always far more going on than in the output of similarly inclined but lesser endowed contemporaries.

Reproducing the sonic detail of the record may never have been on the cards, at least not for an artist playing Crawdaddy, with a capacity of 300, but reports that a full band were in tow did keep the bar raised and the excitement simmering. On the day it looked like I was going to interview Lewis before the show, however this never materialised as the PR channels that needed to be navigated were under the care of small minded traffic controllers. (End of rant)

I got to the venue just after 9. Support act Solar Bears were on stage and Lewis was chatting to fans at the bar, unaffectedly. I furnished myself with a brandy and ginger, had a wander around the Tripod compound, found my friends, had a quick smoke  and then headed back into Crawdaddy just as Twin Shadow took to the stage. Lewis immediately acknowledged the warm vibe of the Dublin crowd by thanking them for the best reception on the tour so far.

Shooting Holes was a our introduction to the Twin Shadow live sound. Harder and looser than on record, the immediate groove now augmented by live drums. Flanked by his bandmates, Lewis displayed a rare presence of ease for such a young gun. He lead the band on his telecaster and cut a Prince-like figure breaking into solos and rocking out with extended jams on almost every track. This was what we had come for. Tonight’s short set included everything on the album and by the time the band had returned for an encore to the triumphant Ole Ole Ole from the ever excitable crowd it was clear that the 2000 people at London’s Shepherds Bush tomorrow night would be witnessing the same star ascending, now shining all the brighter.

isobel campbell & mark lanegan

Hawk is the third album in four years from this seemingly unlikely pairing. However as evidenced on their previous outings Campbell’s soft angelic whisper works beautifully as a counterpoint to Lanegan’s ghostly growl. Together they brew up a gentle but potent storm of sexual tension. As a duo an obvious comparison is to Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra however in this case Campbell is the chief songwriter and producer with Lanegan receiving co-billing even though he only contributes vocals to nine of the thirteen tracks here. Elsewhere Willy Mason sings on the Townes Van Zandt cover No Place To Fall and Smashing Pumpkin James Iha gets down and dirgey with his guitar on You won’t Let Me Down Again. Campbell has extended her palette on this album to include the retro soul of Come Undone, the ragged jangle of instrumental title track Hawk and the sweeping gospel of Lately. Rather than reworking a winning formula Campbell has opted instead to add  more depth and flavour, conjuring up a beguiling mix of haunting dustbowl blues.

Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan –  You Won’t Let Me Down Again:

Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan – Come Undone:

robert plant band of joy

While the Zeppelin reunion rumour mill has finally ground to a halt and Jimmy Page seems content to talk up the amazing new stuff he is forever working on, Robert Plant is certainly not content to rest on any laurels. Following the extensive touring in promotion of Raising Sand, the stunning 2007 album with Alison Krauss, he has been busy putting together a new band of Nashville players led by Buddy Miller. Resurrecting the moniker of one of Plant’s early groups, The Band of Joy are set to release an album next month. Two Irish gigs having been added to the tour and having heard some recordings of the U.S. dates so far I rushed out to grab me a ticket for Belfast. The lead single Angel Dance is a cover of a Los Lobos song that swaggers, swings and struts along confidently with Plant in fine voice.

Robert Plant & The Band of Joy – Angel Dance: