As part of promotional duties for the brilliant new album It Won/t Be Like This All The Time The Twilight Sad brought their miserable music to the fantastic Jumbo Records in Leeds and left the audience gasping for air, and more, with a rousing nine song set.
Performing five songs off the new album as well as four timeless classics the crowd of all ages were treated to a special Sunday afternoon. The wee bairns in attendance will have experienced nothing quite like this before and the family friendly gig proved there really is “no love too small”.
Sunday’s stripped down set consisted of schoolboy friends Andy MacFarlane and James Graham minus the rest of the band. In typical James fashion, putting the crowd first, he asks if we would prefer them to play without the P.A. system and if anyone is struggling to hear further back then they’ll redress the situation. He need not have worried as what was to follow was simply the most stunning vocal performance you’re likely to hear. It’s at moments like this you realise only The Twilight Sad can turn an acoustic set into an intense, brutal affair.
The band kicked off proceedings with track number two off the new album – Shooting Dennis Hooper Shooting. You can hear a pin drop as James delivers a quite beautiful vocal. He rasps “take good of yourself, take good of your friends” as the crowd stand shoulder to shoulder engrossed, transfixed, by a voice that gets the hairs on the back of your neck up. Any fears his voice won’t be heard further back immediately alleviated as he booms “I saw you kill him on the backstair” as the crowd, young and old, look on open-mouthed before the song ends to rapturous applause.
It’s at this point we have one of many apologies from James as he forgets there’s children in the audience and he has to remind himself to stop swearing. He even swears when he’s apologising for swearing.
Next up is an old favourite from the album Forget the Night Ahead titled The Room which James introduces as “a classic” with a wry smile before mocking the fact it’s supposedly a classic. That’s just it though – the song is a classic. The Twilight Sad, being The Twilight Sad, fail to acknowledge it remaining modest as ever even though they have the crowd in their hands. The rousing “you’re the grandson’s, you’re the grandson’s toy in the corner, don’t tell anyone else” reverberates the whole room and hearing it – back to basics – is a moment I’ll never forget.
VTr is a monster of a tune and even stripped back to the bare bones it’s rebuilt exquisitely for this moment. Andy MacFarlane still packs the punch acoustically and aided by the intimate surroundings and personal words the scene set is just perfect. I shut my eyes tight as James sings “there’s no love too small” and picture my son. I open my eyes and look to my right. There’s a man stood with his child. The child is holding his Dad as tightly as he can with a smile on his face while staring intently at this wonderful human being on stage singing his heart out. Treasured moments and very apt for this song.
Girl Chewing Gum is introduced as a “cheery number” but you know what James is really trying to tell you is it’s going to send you under and bring you to your knees. Already a firm favourite with fans the feeling of claustrophobia and intensity is never so more prevalent than in this version of the song. When someone is screaming “Put me in the ground!” at high volume two yards from your face and you suddenly go all cold with the shivers you know he’s singing from the heart, from experience and that the band are playing these songs because (a) their lives depend on them and (b) they believe and are very proud of them. Finishing the song by declaring “I’m leaving now, Won’t see you again” there’s a slight delay before the applause and whooping because everyone in that room is genuinely taken aback by what they just heard causing the aftershock delayed reaction.
James lightens the mood by declaring he opened his eyes at the end of the song and the first thing he could see was a picture of Jim Morrison. Cool. Then he saw Jeff Tweedy. Still cool. Next? Ed Sheeran. Not so cool. Finally – Elton John. This is where James admits Rocket Man is one of his favourite songs! The crowd demand he sings it but he refuses. The audience offer to take him to a karaoke bar, buy him drinks all night and play it. He can’t be swayed.
Next up and a welcome return to the fold is another crowd favourite from their last album and its title track Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave. James’ voice sounds stronger than ever even when he’s expected to deliver such powerful lyrics. You can see this song is taking every last ounce of strength out of him. There are tears in the crowd, there are lumps in throats and how James manages to get through this song is beyond me. Eyes wide shut, head up towards heaven, holding himself in his arms and delivering those words “Can you stay tomorrow, You won’t leave tomorrow, I don’t know where it all went wrong”. Heartbreaking and harrowing you just want to get up on stage and give him a hug.
Released as a single sided 10” single prior to the release of the new album Videograms is next up. There’s a bit of patter between Andy and James before the song as they check the setlist. James, in a light hearted moment, mocks Andy for not being able to understand his own handwriting before James realises it’s actually his handwriting! Comedy gold.
Looking back this may well have been the standout song of the day. James is loud, deep and resonant. He booms and rolls his r’s with that thick Banton accent…”So don’t starrrrrt…Don’t you starrrrrt on me!” The crowd, impeccably behaved, lap it up. There’s a lovely moment where one of the babies present gurgles and talks baby language – there’s a smile from James as he continues to sing – he’s a dad now and maybe he’s thinking about his little one because playing this album and getting it out there will hopefully ease some of the pressures that we all have.
It’s hard to believe it’s a Sunday afternoon and we’ve locked ourselves away in a record store as people pass by oblivious to the great musical talent that’s within their grasp. James thanks the fantastic Jumbo Records for allowing them to play (the staff were brilliant) and he gives a bigger shout out to all independent record stores stressing the importance of keeping them alive. He then tells us how much he loves Leeds and how Leeds has a special place in the band’s heart as the city has always treated them well. James and Andy offer a final thanks to Nathan from the iconic Brudenell Social Club before telling us they have a few more songs to play.
Complete with assisted lyric sheets (but not of the scale of those that “computer whizz” Twilight Dad provided at Monorail much to the amusement of James) the duo launch into another new song Keep It All to Myself. Starting off as a beautiful lullaby sending the babies back to sleep, James serenades and woos but it’s when he ruminates and reflects “You put up with me, And the love that you see, You deserve so much more” that you feel the full force of emotion and the fire in his belly roars as he exclaims “Too many feelings…I keep it all to myself!”
By the time we reach Wrong Car it’s safe to say that we’re all onboard The Twilight Sad ship – an emotional wreck battling through the treacherous waters and dark clouds. It’s testament to James and Andy that they’ve not lost the same gut-wrenching impact of the original when dissecting this song armed with an acoustic guitar alone. From the opening line “and we were there with our ears to the ground” the crowd are hanging on every word, every line, every breath. The anthemic “do you stay in at night, because it’s more than you can bear to show” is sung by the crowd but not as loud as James obviously. This is his cathartic moment, this is our cathartic moment. Somehow James is holding himself together despite his heartfelt pleas “do you worry about me”. Nobody wants this to end. There’s no place we’d rather be than in this place right now watching a band on the verge of something big.
As James declares they have one more song they save a cheery song ‘til the end and it’s taken from the seminal Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters album – And She Would Darken The Memory. Usually played with such manic fervour on tour this stripped down version manages to eclipse even the studio version with it’s powerful, heart-rending, soul-stirring vocal. James closes his eyes, breathes deeply, looks up to the sky and tells us “the rabbit won’t die”. Putting up with constant whines, putting the boot in, the rabbit maybe dying and friendly faces with put on smiles might be enough to send the best of us over the edge but the children, with their innocence, grin from ear to ear just as we do as the song and set reaches its climax. The applause is thunderous and we’re reminded we’re in a record shop as the vinyl in the store rattles about in unison with the clapping.
James and Andy thank us for buying the record, for popping along on a Sunday afternoon when we could be doing something else (why would we?) and reveal they’ll happy stay behind for a chat and sign anything that needs signing. Testament again that they realise they need the fans just as the fans need them. With a quick signing of my album and a picture with the approachable pair I depart with the final words….”See you in Manchester…and London…and Glasgow”.
Rather unexpectedly news breaks the following day that It Won’t Be Like This All the Time is currently sitting at Number 5 in the midweek charts. A remarkable achievement for a band who have faced so much adversity over the years. The band are stunned and very emotional about the whole thing. Their humble, astounding reaction that people want to listen and buy their records is refreshing in itself and right now we need to make this band believe they are on the cusp of something really special and it would be brilliant if they could cement their place in the top ten come the end of the week. They still have more in-store shows to play so buy the album, stream it, share it, play it loud and proud. It’s what bands like The Twilight Sad deserve.
The Twilight Sad's official website can be found here. They are on Facebook and Twitter.
Our review of the album can be found here.
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