Live review: The Jezabels at Oran Mor, 26/2/14

_DSC2771Australian quintet The Jezabels are fully aware of the negative critical reaction their second album The Brink has been receiving, with an en masse no-holds-barred onslaught of critics wallowing in a homogenous canonical vial, stating that the material aspires to nothing more than generalized stadium rock affair.

Despite this The Jezabels have displayed none of the acrimony or rejection that customarily characterises musician’s reactions to negative reviews.

It can’t be the easiest of undertakings to ignore – especially when moving from their homeland (Australia) to London to write and produce said record in a non-concrete-domiciled, always-on-the-move, nomadically driven method.

Hayley Mary – who (probably unwisely) conjured up the terminology “intens-indie” to implement an all-encompassing adjective to describe the bands sound – depicts the move as being a cold, dark and desperate experience.

With the love from their homeland evading them in exchange for a foreign territory renowned for harshly unadulterated criticism toward less established artists – this seems reasonable.

Having an influx of artists moving to London, and with so much to choose from, it can generate a taken-for-granted superciliousness, with critics suffering from an air of play-it-safe of circumscribed myopicism – conserving and afraid to branch too far out from their counterparts.

The Glasgow gig is a sell-out, and going by crowd reactions of tonight’s performance, there are prognostic hints of positivity that things are finally looking up for The Jezables – at least north of the border.

Oran Mor is packed with adorning fans that have been subsumed by the mesmeric performance of Mary, who easily looks the most comfortable on stage – with her naturalistic qualities and lithe gyrations.

They play a rocking upbeat version of ‘Look Of Love’ from their latest album ‘Brink’ following the crowd pleaser ‘Endless Summer’ from their debut album Prisoner.

Mary, dressed in an all-black gothic outfit, coyly and jokingly enlightens the crowd post-tunage, that their new material has been deemed too poppy by the London critics – nonchalantly passing off the jibe with a humbling “fuck it” –hinting that the band have been consuming both; the good and the bad, with a c’est la vie attitude towards the collected opines.

There is certainly no bad vibes tonight to dampen the mood, with the band being subject to rapturous applause from the warming Glaswegian crowd, it’s an arduous testament that they are clearly doing something right despite the naysayers.

‘Time to Dance’ has a great synth-pop melody that harks back to early Shiny Toy Guns – We Are Pilots, with a guitar melody that sounds suspiciously influenced by Coldplay’s ‘Clocks’; ambivantly borrowing (or thieving, depending on ones’ take on the matter) from the communal musical honeypot – something that Coldplay themselves have been known to dabble in.

Pelting out the lyrics: “my Passion, what’s the point in all that gas; what’s the point in all that gas,” Mary has an amazingly strong vocal prowess, adeptly competing against Nik Kaloper’s epic drum assaults with a brutally emotive falsetto.

All my life I can see the dark – the dark Synth sounds provided by Heather Shannon add a nice Kim Wilde-esque 80s pop assault to the overall sound.

The vocals harmonies between Mary and Shannon are tightly locked in and are crystal in clarity.

Constantly stealing the stage with her amazingly distinctive voice, Mary exudes Kate Bush inspired melodic sensibilities, which seamlessly interchange between mezzo-soprano and falsetto.

A dearth of song titles, juxtaposed with loose communication makes for amateurish gaps between songs, including – most importantly – the newer material.

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It is a minor annoyance that becomes rather grating throughout the set– akin to a small itch that turns into a rash, which, by the encore eventually reaches infectious territory.

Mary’s natural stage presence is slightly charred by guitarist Samuel Lockwood, as he tries his best working with the forced looking choreographed horse-galloping lessons he seems to have been subjected to – most likely forcedly – this is further fuelled by his cringe-inducing, obligatory invocation to generate a stadium syncing open-close-clap-cliché.

Fortunately this garners a few recipients who are either, completely socially unaware zombies, or extremely inebriated.

Lockwood’s rather stiff performance is further epitomized by Heather Shannon’s bizarre choice of remaining seated during the entire performance, which makes for a collaged pastiche, of lowbrow highbrow stage dispositioning.

It is an awkwardness that is further enforced when her head starts bobbing up and down with the rest of the band – with the rest of her body involuntarily screaming such insecurities as ‘help-me-I-don’t-wanna-be-here’ and ‘I-don’t-feel-too-comfortable-with-this-live-malarkey’.

Hopefully, these awkward habits will dissipate with time – along with the presumptuous leg cramp – through more experience on the live circuit; as Leo Marvin famously stated: baby steps.

Musically as a unit the band are more than competent in the song writing department with standout tracks ‘Easy to Love’, ‘A Little Piece’, ‘Long Highway’, ‘Hurt Me’ (which consists of some top-notch drumming skills) and ‘Beat To Beat’.

There is no denying that the new material from Brink plays it much more safe (less edgy) than the older material, but it is not necessary a bad thing.

With souring guitar lines, lovely drum dynamics and dreamy synth soundscapes topped off by Mary’s remarkable stage presence and beautiful voice the band is guaranteed to win new fans over.

Some fine-tuning in the physical aspects of the live department would facilitate in consolidating them as a complete unit.

An enjoyable performance with some standout tracks.

More photos

Words: Derek Robertson
Photos: Tessy Troes

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