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Concert Review by Nick Morgan

I AM KLOOT - The Astoria, London, October 29th, 2005

For those who may have begun to despair that anything good might ever again come out of Manchester in the wake of that Frankenstein’s monster Oasis, the Happy Mondays, Rio Ferdinand etc., I am Kloot should act as an optimistic signpost to the future.

I am Kloot
Formed in 1999, and with three albums to their name (Natural History, I am Kloot, and this year’s Gods and Monsters – “a coruscating collection of calamitous and courageous songs”, as one hyper-alliterative reviewer described it) I am Kloot are front man, guitarist, vocalist and songwriter, the diminutive Johnny Bramwell (“If I stand on this box can you see me?”), Pete Jobson on bass and Andy Hargreaves on drums. It’s 8.30, unusually early at the Astoria, and they’re about to charge through twenty songs or so in around an hour and a half. It’s Saturday night, so between the band finishing, us being chucked out and 11.00pm, the Pickle Factory has to transform itself into the G-A-Y nitespot. Hence the rush.
I am Kloot   Bramwell has something of a reputation as a comedian but there’s no nonsense about this set. It’s smart and snappy – with only a few asides (“this song’s about illicit drinking”, “this song’s about illicit drinking and sex”, “this song’s about illicit vampirism and stuff”), good humoured, exceptionally well rehearsed (the band don’t seem to communicate a great deal on stage at all, ‘though their embraces when they eventually leave indicate how close they are) and played at about 75% of the Astoria’s normal sound level.
So we can hear everything (even the over-informed conversations around us – mostly between blokes – “Johnny’s tuned his guitar down to open A minor for this” or “I’m sure he was using a Gibson acoustic on ‘Twist’ in Glasgow”), and in particular Bramwell’s gravely Mancunian vocals.
Which is just as well. Because for all of their nicely constructed jazzy, folksy rocky style of accompaniment (you could be forgiven for thinking that the main musical inspiration for the band is a sort of Brecht’s Beggar’s Opera meets the Beatles) this is a band that starts and finishes with its lyrics. That’s not the say that the playing isn’t good – Jobson’s unobtrusive bass is outstanding, Hargreaves works his way through I don’t know how many sets of drum sticks, brushes and timpani sticks as he weaves his subtle percussive patterns, Bramwell knows his way round both an acoustic and electric guitars, and they supplement this with occasional support on key boards, pedal steel guitar and guitar (a beautiful sustain accompaniment to ‘Because’). But I can’t really remember anything that sounded too much like a solo all night.
The songs are short and well constructed. Bramwell is a dab-hand at the opening line that just reels you in – “I believe in the hallelujah chorus of the shopping mall” (‘I believe’), “Twisted on destiny, fate and three wishes we fuck and we fight, someone else does the dishes” (‘Twist’), “Unscrew your face from your laptop screen” (‘Morning rain’), and manages to inject all of his songs with a modish mixture of tender melancholy, mystery and the macabre (blimey, that alliterative thing must be getting to me too) – with musical arrangements to suit. Possibly the best example would be ‘Ordinary girl’ or ‘Gods and Monsters’ with it’s marvellously Steve Nievesque organ riffs. But we get a full tour of his writing skills in this frenetic set – from the Oasis like ‘Storm warning’, the twisted ‘Twist’, ‘Cuckoo’ (“sooty urban darkness” says the Guardian),‘Over my shoulder’, new single ‘Maybe I should’ to ‘No fear of falling’, and ‘To you’ both performed solo, and superbly well by Bramwell.
I am Kloot
It really did turn out to be a jolly entertaining evening, with an audience of mixed ages, thankfully free of too many Saturday night stoners, who reacted in kind to the relatively low-key and intimate nature of the set. Of course something had to take us by surprise. As the band dived into a rushed encore/final song ‘Life in a day’, with the sort of underlying drum rhythm that a 1930s musical would use to signpost ‘Jungle themed dance’, so the stage was filled by the Troupe, who danced round the unmoving band in a pastiche of a Busby Berkeley sequence. Dancing Girls at the Astoria two gigs running! And a suitably incongruous end to quite a cerebrally charged night. - Nick Morgan (concert photos by Kate)

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