Mull Historical Society, Bush Hall, London
Wednesday 05 February 2003
To think this was supposed to be a warm-up gig. Mull Historical Society's show, a low-key date before their national tour, just happens to have fallen on the coldest night of the year. With London ground to a halt due to the icy weather, the place is only a third full. Even the band arrive late, pitching up just five minutes before the show is due to start having spent several hours in a traffic jam. It's no wonder that Colin MacIntyre – for he is Mull Historical Society – is looking a little gloomy.
Still, you'd hope that a band would make the best of such circumstances and have a bit of fun. But, alas, it isn't to be. MacIntyre has never been one to play the rock star, but tonight he may as well be invisible for all the presence he exudes, while the rest of his band never seem to defrost. Matters aren't helped by the terrible sound quality (there was no time for a sound check). As the band launches into the opener "Am I Wrong?", the guitars sound so tinny the whole room flinches, while MacIntyre's vocals are rendered reedy and thin. The subtle textures of his recorded material are conspicuously absent and the subtle humour completely lost. As each song melts indistinguishably into the next, you wonder if it's really worth the effort.
MacIntyre's first album, Loss, found him breaking down musical barriers, bending old sounds into eccentric new shapes with the help of horns, accordions and, on occasion, choirboys; his forthcoming LP Us, though a simpler, more stripped-down affair, betrays a similar whimsical streak.
But it just doesn't translate live. Mull have frequently been compared to the Welsh wizards Super Furry Animals and Oklahoma's The Flaming Lips, though tonight they display neither the invention or barmy wit of either band. MacIntyre mangles the chorus of "I Tried" by singing it off key; even "Barcode Bypass", on record a gloriously eerie tale of a cornershop owner struggling to compete with the 24-hour supermarket down the road, passes by uneventfully. Only during "The Final Arrears", the band's forthcoming single, and the encore track "Us", does MacIntyre achieve any kind of emotional impact. Tonight, it seems, his heart just isn't in it.
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