The Zutons, Hammersmith Apollo, London
Thursday 01 January 2009
It is no mean feat for a band to carry off a performance in which their best-known song has been covered in prolific fashion by the insouciant Amy Winehouse. But nonetheless, and without a touch of humility, The Zuton's flex their considerable indie muscle and deliver material from their three successful albums in a fashion worthy of the term inimitable.
Opening in a sea of blue lights with "Zuton Fever", an energetic statement of intent, with guitarist Paul Molloy interweaving seductively with Abi Harding's staccato saxophone lines. The crowd were mesmerised by Harding, but there's more to The Zuton's than just a beautiful saxophonist: they are to a man (and woman) dizzying in their confidence and reassuring in their lack of pretension.
Their first album hit "Pressure Point" was prefaced by a psychedelic instrumental lead-in worthy of fellow scousers and Deltasonic label-mates The Coral. Although David McCabe's outfit have gone on to distance themselves from their comrades with their reggae and soul influences, echoes of the influence of Ian Broudie, who produced both bands in their early days, are still audible.
Despite a set-list full of successful singles, the audience were slow to react, and McCabe and Harding's efforts were insufficient to rouse much of a response until playing "Confusion", and then the Apollo's mutual swaying paved the way for a well-received second half. After an acoustic lull in which the pair duet to "Put A Little Aside", a song showcasing a fresh nuance to a band who clearly reached a point of emotional maturity when recording the third album You Can Do Anything, on which it appeared, and another acoustic ballad, "Remember Me", the group segue back into their louder material by way of "Don't Ever Think Too Much".
With a sad inevitability, it is "Valerie" which receives the warmest response. That at least one audience member is singing along the trumpet line of the Mark Ronson-produced Amy Winehouse cover is understandable, but it is at this point that the band finally seem to receive the appreciation their performance has merited over the evening.
An encore which sees early single "You Will You Won't" given a fresh injection of intensity is a clear highlight of an evening in which the band display a performing maturity which complements their new post-third album status. It's heartening to see a band able to energise a lackadaisical audience as joyfully as The Zuton's managed over the course of the night's diverse and confident set.
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