One year ago to the day, I saw Bob Dylan perform in Birmingham’s infamous NEC Arena. Impersonal and enormous, it’s the typical show after which old men brag about how much better it was when they saw the not-yet-famous band in a small, cosy café in the 60s. Lucky them. But surely, few things can be more snug than this free, Burn the Jukebox-organised event in York’s tiny painting studio The Artspace, opposite Clifford’s Tower.
The airtight audience is face-to-face with the band, atmospheric flowery fairy lights offer the only illumination and the stage is framed by a selection of abstract paintings – shows don’t get much more intimate than this.
And the setlist is fittingly staggering, offering an eclectic mix of genres. A Band, Yesterday opens the night with a breezy overture of elegant electronica. Next up is Alex Clegg, an inspired singer-songwriter performing tragicomic songs about elephant religions, castles and trains. Angel-faced and cardigan-clad, you hardly expect the explosion of his powerful, primal voice over a lone frenzied drum for the Leadbelly’s cover he opens his set with. His voice is a mix between a particularly droll Conor Oberst and an incensed Thom Yorke, with that studied roughness that Bob Dylan himself does so well. After he goes off, Leeds band These Monsters hit the stage (well, the floor) with a distinctly different set: a passionate, instrumental fusion of post-rock and jazz with just enough distortion. A quick post-concert enquiry of whether they’d ever considered adding violins to the mix reveals that they do in fact usually have a violin player, which makes them even cooler. Violins aside, the saxophone and guitars complement each other impeccably as they go from twee sax solos to rock and back again with easy grace, making for dramatic contrast and grandiose crescendos.
All of this is while surrounded by paintbrushes and turpentine. Take that, NEC.
Live at The Artspace, 17/11/06