Broken Family Band, Luminaire, London

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The Independent Culture

While the O2 arena may have quickly risen to the top of the rock-venue hit parade, and the dear old Albert Hall continues to hoover up bookings, you still can't beat a room above a pub if the band are right for it and they are at the top of their game.

Such was the case with the Broken Family Band when they squeezed into the Luminaire, on Kilburn High Road in north-west London, and did their bit to enhance its reputation as a space that crackles with atmosphere and draws some of the most interesting sounds around.

The Cambridge foursome's show marked the culmination of the Luminaire's two-night "Winter Sprinter" series, featuring acts on the laudable Track and Field label. The previous night, The Clientele had performed, and, according to the band's website, they found the venue "relaxing and cool to play in".

It certainly seemed to work for The Broken Family Band, whose Americana-flavoured twisted love songs, musically vibrant but emotionally introspective, came across brilliantly. The band are really a Koko-sized outfit these days – they played twice at the palatial Camden venue last year – so it was a privilege to catch them in such an intimate setting.

The action centres around the engaging frontman Steven Adams, who is one of those people who is funny before he has even said anything. But boyish and cheeky-looking though he is, his songs bear the weight of bitter experience, none more so tonight than old favourite "The Booze and the Drugs", which starts out as a lilting lament that seems purely personal before accelerating into a wider, angrier critique.

Stand-out numbers from the band's new album, Hello Love, included "Leaps", an exhilarating paean to the first flush of romance; "Hey Captain!", both exquisite and magisterial; and the wistful, folkier "Give and Take". There are Dylanesque turns of phrases and satirical barbs worthy of Loudon Wainwright, and it's all wrapped up in a jangly guitar sound that hasn't been heard since the Violent Femmes and which leaves you with a great big smile on your face. Wherever the Broken Family Band turn up next, big or small, I'd recommend them.

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