Lamb Queen Margaret Union, Glasgow

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

THEY COULD have been contenders. A few pop lifetimes ago - that's three years in these accelerating times - Lamb were tipped for super stardom after supporting Moby on his 2000 tour. But the duo of keyboard mixer-producer Andy Barlow and vocalist Louise Rhodes, born out Manchester's post-rave dance scene in the late Nineties, soon slipped back into the shadows. Although they appeared sporadically in Europe and the US, Lamb seemed to lose momentum and direction, amid an unfortunate flurry of Portishead comparisons. Add to that some recent rescheduled tour dates, rumours of illness and a long-gestating fourth album, Between Darkness and Light, and the omens were hardly encouraging for the start of their first UK tour in years. But a packed and steaming Queen Margaret Union was evidence that Lamb still attract a worshipful following.

They look a little nervous to begin with, like a more reserved Everything But The Girl. But Barlow and Rhodes are now far removed from downbeat chill-out, more jazzy and angular, with Rhodes's pointed, wailing vocals rising above Barlow's ever-building break beats and Jon Thorne's floor-buckling electric double bass.

The crowd point to the sky and roar and I realise we are watching nothing less than a highly tuned, fully-charged comeback. Lamb were founded on trip-hop, dub and rootsy percussion, much of which has faded from dance fashion. But the duo have found a direction that retains the loping rhythms and explores rushes of percussive power with reborn confidence.

Louise Rhodes asks if anyone has had "those days when the world has turned to shit", before introducing "Stronger" as "a song for those days". Lamb make music for those who want to dance around the campfire on their own, for those in lonely bedsits rather than the club crowd, more trance than techno.

New songs such as "Clouds Clear" blend with old favourites like a dreamy, yearning "Gabriel", with Oddur Runanson's keening guitar overlaying a newly strengthened rhythmic backdrop from Nikolaj Bjerre's drums. The songs have an almost anthemic dimension.

And it is Rhodes who has the edge, a tiny figure with a yearning, stabbing voice, a trip-hop Piaf who displays a folksy background and sometimes bears a haunting similarity to an on-form Sinead O'Connor. Meanwhile, Barlow darts around, plunging into keyboard samples and grabbing drums to lead a communal chorus of Brazilian-styled percussion.

By the finale, the newly invigorated Lamb seem genuinely surprised at the adulation from the raucous Glasgow audience. Rhodes tells us "Thank you so much, you were utterly, utterly sensational." So were they. If Lamb can keep up this soulful dance attack amid the wave of revivalist electronica, they might well be contenders again.

Lamb play The Academy, Liverpool, tomorrow, and then tour