Tuesday, 21 May 2019

The Twilight Sad / Kathryn Joseph - Brooklyn Elsewhere Hall - 11th May 2019


Travelling half-way across the world to watch your favourite band is a sign of being a hardcore fan. Jason Wynne reports back from the second of his two nights on the East Coast of the USA watching The Twilight Sad.

The second night of The Twilight Sad’s North American tour takes us to Brooklyn, New York and the impressive Elsewhere Hall. It’s a three-in-one venue acting as a live music venue, nightclub (we’ll get to that in a minute) and creative arts space. There’s graffiti everywhere in the neighbourhood as we make our way to the venue and, rather satisfyingly, there is plenty of spray painted and stencilled “It Won/t Be Like This All The Time” etchings visible thanks to the wonderful work of some crazy, die-hard fans who worked relentlessly round the clock to make their mark and let people know The Twilight Sad are in town.

Kathryn Joseph delivers another mesmerising set with the highlight being “^^”. A song that hits me more than ever tonight and post-gig I am forced to tell Kathryn so. “He has my heart, she is my blood and I am made full” she sings poignantly. I tell her how it made me think of those I left at home for this trip. “She has my heart, he is my blood” I tell her. We embrace.

She also jokes mid-set how she “can’t understand why a miserable Scottish band wanted her to join them on tour to play (her) music just as miserable”. Maybe because the mood is just perfect to set up a pent up James Graham later on.

The band take to the stage ten minutes earlier than scheduled and there’s suggestion that they may be playing an additional song or two. It is, in fact, the opposite as James immediately apologises to everyone on his arrival by informing us it is a club night and they are on a strict curfew so at least we don’t have to “put up with his shite patter”. The crowd groan, but only because the patter is something that brings light to the darkness of the shows. There’s nothing more annoying than these club nights taking over venues and dictating the curfews especially when there appear (at the end of the gig) to be so few waiting outside to attend the club.


And with that apology, which wasn’t necessary but is just typical of James, we hear the dancey intro to [10 Good Reasons For Modern Drugs] and this is deafening. There’s an air of expectancy and the crowd seem even more up for this than the first night. This song is the perfect opener to proceedings as everyone is in unison singing, dancing, standing in their safe pockets of space and enjoying the moment just like you should be able to at a gig. As James bawls out “Why can’t you remember me? I’ve seen it all before” at the close of the song everyone’s ears are ringing as the din takes over the hall only to be usurped by the partisan crowds approval that that was very good.

First surprise of the night comes as they launch into VTr rather than Girl Chewing Gum (dropped for the night). This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though. Brendan Smith’s haunting synth accompanied by the Peter Hook-like bass of Johnny Docherty crank up the song to another dimension. Sebastien Schultz gives it his all clattering those drums like his life depends on it. Andy MacFarlane, sublime as ever, savagely assaults the guitar and it’s left to James to pull the punches.

“Please don’t leave me alone, I won’t cope on my own” warbles James. The fragility of life evident and none more so than in this song. The connection between band and audience has always been important and when he sings “there’s no love too small” in a way that only James can sing it it’s impossible to not let your own emotions out. Outbursts of joy, sadness, exultation and hopelessness. Any emotion you could imagine rolled into one.

The simply gorgeous “The Arbor” is hard to ignore. The sense of somebody leaving transpires perfectly in this song. “Why did you leave in the night?” inquires James. The bass of Johnny Docherty dictates the audience mood as we drift, close our eyes, lose ourselves in the moment. The slow burner builds up into a crescendo, James croons “Played God so long, I never wanted to fight” as Smith hammers those keys a little harder and the animated Schultz thrashes those drums into submission.

The ever impressive Reflection of the Television never disappoints. The harrowing sound of Andy MacFarlane’s guitar doing battle with Docherty’s bass is enough to make this grown man cry. James looks more demonic, more determined than ever tonight. Yes he’s “more than a fighter you know” and the crowd reflect this with their own thoughts of battles they’ve had to even be here today. Band and crowd are definitely in this together for the long haul. “You told me it’d get better and I know you’re old” yearns James.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again - the opening to Last January always gets me. It grabs you, shakes you, throws you to the floor, picks you up again before cruelly throwing you back to the floor. It offers hope but snatches it away from you within the blink of an eye. James bounces about, stretching high, straining low, frantically scouring the audience as he hisses in sinister fashion “I see you at night and I stare at you, you don’t care for me” but we do. The intensification of the song culminates with a roaring James, heart of a lion, spinning manically, beating his chest, pirouetting before simply looking exhausted physically and mentally – just like the audience itself. Every ounce of emotion spent.

When your body breaks and it aches and you can only take so much songs like Sunday Day13 can help moderate the pace although now it’s the brutality of the words rather than the pace of the song that hit you hard. “They just want us dead, you can take it out on me” vociferates James as Brendan Smith’s maudlin keys close out the song to eerie applause.

As James composes himself the opening beats of There’s A Girl In the Corner ring around the venue and it’s enough to raise the decibels that extra few. Like the night before we can feel ourselves being swallowed up as James sucks us in to his world. “There’s a girl in the corner and she’s crying for you, gonna die for you”. It feels uncomfortable but you know you’re going to come out of this airless, confined hole stronger. It’s enthralling and the magnetism that James possesses means the only way out is to join him, engage him and support him more than ever. “You sold me, you saved me, you saved” he laments.


Just like the night before in Philadelphia we get the solid trio of songs in I/m Not Here [Missing Face], Let/s Get Lost and Videograms from their latest album It Won/t Be Like This All the Time. Whereas the night before was intense for different reasons tonight the band seem even more energetic, more angry to the point James storms about teetering on the brink. His voice straining as he puts everything into it. Nothing more (there isn’t any more to give), nothing less.

Andy MacFarlane brutally opens up the guitar on I/m Not Here [Missing Face]. A shellshocked crowd facing a callous onslaught and MacFarlane doesn’t hold back beating us down mercilessly in a blaze of glory. James sings about trying to be a better person and not liking himself very much with the added frustration of letting down those closest to him. The magic potent mix of Shultz, Docherty, Smith and MacFarlane adding fuel to Graham’s raging fire.

Tonight doesn’t ease up in intensity. Let/s Get Lost refuses to allow you to do that. James continuing to wear his heart on his sleeve as the song simmers, bubbles and explodes like a pressure cooker blowing its top. Sometimes there feels like no way out. You see it coming and you still do nothing as everything spirals out of control. This brittle, fractured existence ending with a cry for help “I don’t know what to do”. Look out for those you love, engage with them, be there for each other…always.

Visibly moved by the adoration and the adulation of the New York crowd, Videograms, with its gliding, glacial guitars and keys saps the energy out of both James and us. The turmoil and the uncertainty prompting confusion and anxiety from James. “Is it still me that you love?” It’s difficult to fully get inside someone’s head but you know the discomfort is real as he seeks comfort from his solitude “I’m afraid to tell you when you’re wrong, I’m not sure” leaves him downcast and hopeless. The biggest cheer of the night is confirmation we’re right behind him. We always will be.

There’s only one way to go when you’re feeling down and trapped in a corner. The Twilight Sad have been in this position countless times in their expansive career and they show their steely side with the classic Cold Days From The Birdhouse.

What has now become customary for James is to ask for assistance in singing the incredibly emotional Cold Days From The Birdhouse as without us he can no longer get through the song alone. The crowd need no invitation however as this heartrending song brings us all closer than ever before. You can see it in the eyes of James that this means everything to him. Looking to the sky thinking of those who have gone, those who are still here but thousands of miles away. “I won’t wear your shoes and I won’t clip your wings” cries James, beating himself up literally as the song comes crashing down into a crescendo of noise, the pandemonium increasing as he asks “so where are your mirrors” repeatedly as the band stun the crowd into silence.

It’s probably lucky for both band and crowd that The Wrong Car is dropped tonight. Everyone is teetering on the edge of the abyss, fighting back the tears, standing defiant but one thing could just trigger off impending doom.

However, on a night like tonight, we (and the band) find salvation with the cathartic Keep Yourself Warm. Scott Hutchison will never ever be forgotten. He has left such a lasting impression on those closest to him as well as fans, old and new, of Frightened Rabbit, Mastersystem, Owl John and The Fruit Tree Foundation to name but a few. The opening of the song is one of contemplation and consideration until it builds up to a release of anger, resentment, joy, hope, despair, desolation. So many thoughts revolving from people asking soul searching questions about loved ones they have lost senselessly. James puts his hand on his heart, eyes wide shut, releases every bit of pain in his body and lets the tears run dry. You can see him looking out to the vast hall almost like he’s spotted Scott, following him around the room – you can imagine Scott with that infectious grin on his face – and we finally get a smile from James. It’s a sad smile but it’s one that suggests he’s helped hundreds of people deal with the grief tonight. James carries the weight of expectation on his shoulders gallantly but he’s not alone, we are not alone. We sing together, we cry together, we laugh together, we stand together.

And She Would Darken The Memory forms the conclusion of an incredible second night in Brooklyn which some of the more seasoned Sad gig-goers describe as being in their “best five / best ten gigs of all time”. These are people who have seen them approaching fifty times (such is the lure of the band) and one goes as far as saying this was “the best”. James defiantly tells us, with stiff upper lip, “head up dear the rabbit WON’T die” as arms are held aloft and people holler and scream their approval . James completely loses his inhibitions violently throwing himself about, hands shaking vigorously “because I’m putting up with your constant whine and that won’t last too long”, jerking psychotically “and friendly faces with out on smiles, a drunken mind game past” before “putting the boot in tonight” one more time, one more time slamming the microphone down, unleashing the lead on the microphone, running up to Seb on drums screaming frantically, manically letting out every last drop he has to offer before collapsing on the floor exasperated, crushed and conquered in his own personal battle.

As the lights come on I see tears, smiles, people dumbfounded, others not so surprised because this is what The Twilight Sad do and there’s no other band can do what The Twilight Sad do! From The City That Never Sleeps it’s obvious that no one will be able to sleep so soon after that. The fans party on into the night knowing that yet again The Twilight Sad have conquered New York with raw passion. The dedication and devotion between band and fans means they are going nowhere soon and as further stencilling/graffiti spraying activity takes place post-gig there’s that stark reminder – savour these times as “It Won/t Be Like This All The Time”.

The Twilight Sad played [10 Good Reasons For Modern Drugs], Vtr, The Arbor, Reflection of the Television, Last January, Sunday Day13, There’s A Girl In The Corner, I/m Not Here [Missing Face], Let/s Get Lost, Videograms, Cold Days From The Birdhouse, Keep Yourself Warm and And She Would Darken The Memory.

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.

Kathyrn Joseph's website can be found here and she is on Facebook and Twitter.
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