Goldheart Assembly, ICA, London

When there's lots to smile about
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The Independent Culture

There is something inescapably likeable about Goldheart Assembly. The London six-piece first had a fan in Steve Lamacq, becoming the first unsigned act in a decade to record a Radio 1 session with the DJ. Add to that a tour with folk rock darlings the Low Anthem, and their London headline shows – tonight is one of their biggest to date – are becoming repeat sell-out successes.

It's not surprising: the winsome six-part vocal harmonies led by vocalist and bassist James Dale and vocalist and guitarist John Herbert, can warm the coldest of hearts, and has gained them such high praise as being hailed the British Fleet Foxes. Their newly released album, Wolves and Thieves, from which they play the majority of tonight's set, is packed with song-writing gems, brimming with ideas.

"Anvil" is a cohesive mix of Neil Young After the Gold Rush-era with Fleet Foxes' harmonies, while the swift-paced folk-rock of "King of Rome" takes an immediate hold on the listener. A dominant bass groove from Dale drives the West Coast blues-rock song "Hope Hung High" and benefits from Herbert taking the vocal lead, his voice throatier than the Fyfe Dangerfield-esque Dale. The soothing plaintive melodies of songs such as "Last Decade", its evocative wistful romance captured by delicate vocal harmonies, tinkling xylophone and harp-like clean guitar strumming, and "So Long, St Christopher", saved for last, with its hazy Hammond organ tones, are a perfect example of their heart-warming abilities.

Members Dale and Herbert met when they were working at Whipsnade Zoo, and the band only played their first gig in October 2008. The six-piece are said to have bonded over the Band's The Last Waltz film and a shared appreciation of Tom Waits, and their overall look (complete with beards), and especially mastered by lead guitarist Dominic Keshavarz, is firmly rooted in the country and folk-rock scene of the Seventies.

It's not just their melodies and harmonies which are infectious. You feel that the band members are actually enjoying themselves, as they smile at each other throughout their set. That said, judging from this ramshackle show, peppered with lots of onstage chat, at the moment Goldheart Assembly still come across as more of a pub band than one headed for stardom. Still, if they step up their live shows a gear, there's no reason that the big stages at festivals won't await them in the not-so-distant future.

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