[The Twilight Sad frontman James Graham – file photo: David P Scott]
“So what song’s next?!” James Graham, mid-set – a wicked smile cracking over his face – rhetorically asks his audience, knowing all too well tonight’s proceedings adhere to the rigid, chronological order of his group’s acclaimed debut album Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters.
Given the nature of the gig, surprises are not in the forefront of the minds of those crammed into the confines of the renowned venue, and in what is their tenth year as a band, The Twilight Sad grace King Tut’s on Black Friday, and for the first ever time the whole of the album is played live.
The loop-embracing polymath Adam Stafford, director of the Kilsyth group’s video for ‘Seven Years of Letters’, lubricates the crowd as support act, having had a successful year with his own release Imaginary Walls Collapse.
With no material released this year, it’s been a quieter one for Graham and company, though they did cause a stir with a stunning reinvention of ‘The Wrong Car’ with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra in Paisley Abbey, they pencilled in some summer UK tour dates for next year and they confirmed the studio has been booked for the work on a fourth album.
In Tut’s tonight, the stealthy piano intro of ‘Cold Days From The Birdhouse’ initiates the show. Like its successor ‘That Summer…’, it’s a powerful, transfixing cocktail which floods the nervous system, as Graham writhes around, trance-like, on stage.
His adolescence may be a distant memory now, but the songs Graham wrote when only 14 are still as potent as ever. Out-of-breath, he quips after the mightily impressive conclusion of ‘Talking With Fireworks’ that a solitary drumstick is “the only instrument I’ll ever play – and still shit at it”. The self-deprecating Graham adds that leading a band is “a young man’s game”.
Elongating the album’s 44-minute running time, ‘Last Year’s Rain’ sees a slight extension, and a number featured on the Japanese edition, ‘Watching That Chair Painted Yellow’, creeps in. ‘I’m Taking The Home’ is poignantly powerful in its delay, with Graham standing motionless and silent for several minutes.
It’s a stunning set from a group who carry immediacy like few others. Graham’s vocals instantly propel the listener into a dark, complex world; a territory inhabited by both reclusive, cryptic, eye-narrowed scrutiny, and sensitive but uninhibited frustration.
Like, say, The National or Interpol, a landscape steeped in darkness is accompanied by vocals that make The Twilight Sad instantly discernible. Graham’s brogue can be blood curdling and also baritone, which has worked both for (critically) and against them (commercially).
Their first muscular offering in a trilogy of albums is played out to few surprises, but none were needed. Their show revelled in a subtle sense of celebration, and sent an audience off into a bitter winter night, wondering what surprises lay ahead in the fourth album.
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