Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Trampled by Turtles, Manchester Gorilla, 17th November 2014 9/10

About an hour into Trampled by Turtles' set, an audience member shouted: 'Give it your all next time'. Dave Simonett made light of the intervention, remarking that he appreciates polite hecklers, but it seems that he misunderstand the ironic Mancunian humour. It was clear to absolutely everyone present that the five maestri from Duluth were playing their hearts out, determined to sweep us up in joy. The acoustic instruments sounded gloriously rich, and the audience was wrapped in a warm blanket of mellifluous sound. This reflects their recent studio collaboration with Low's Alan Sparhawk, who has helped to develop contemporary influences in the sound. Dave's voice is nasal, but he's a charismatic front man, and maintained the almost breathless momentum of the set by talking little between songs.

For once, the support act was both apt and engaging. The Dirty Beggars bring Celtic folk and a jazz bass line to bluegrass. The five piece passionately communicated a Scottish love letter to America, sounding strikingly like Old Crow Medicine Show and in their more heartfelt moments, TbT themselves. Whilst I sensed a sag in the material mid set (Chicken Song was just too ridiculous for my taste), the strongest songs came from their most recent release, Time to Reminisce EP. They managed to get the audience moving and drew more than the customary polite applause. More than just a derivative tribute to Americana, this fusion makes me impatient to hear their second full length.

Yet, when Trampled by Turtles came on stage, there was an explosion of energy and virtuosity. Whereas their seventh album Wild Animals has a predominantly reflective feel, exhilarating foot stomping numbers like Western World seemed to dominate this set. In fact, the mood was similar to their stunning 2013 release, Live at First Avenue, despite the addition of six newer songs. The small group dancing in the middle of the crowd turned out to be from Minnesota, but on this damp Monday evening, the 600 capacity venue was little more than half full of locals. TbT last played Manchester's smaller Night & Day Cafe in June 2013, which felt more fittingly intimate. There were times, though when I was able to imagine myself back in Minnesota where I'd been a week earlier, far from this city centre railway arch. I was reminded of music's connection to place, and TbT resonated with my precious memories of time spent in rural North America.

For all the rousing excitement and dazzling speed, the depth of numbers like Midnight on the Interstate from their finest album, 2012's Stars and Satellites, moved me most. Dave writes: 'Solitary time in a nearly untouched landscape is my version of church' continuing; 'I believe a lot of sadness is caused by feeling disconnected from the rest of nature'. Their finest recent material has a real sense of vulnerability and loss. Dave wrote these songs after moving to the city of Minneapolis from Duluth, and seems to be lamenting being parted from the wilderness that we need to regenerate. Despite the invigorating nature of their live act, it's the tenderness of melody and warmth of harmony which will remain in the heart for longest of all. TbT are truly not to be missed next time they're in your town.

Set List
  • Winners
  • Alone
  • Walt Whitman
  • Western World
  • Repetition
  • Midnight on the Interstate
  • Hollow
  • Codeine
  • Truck
  • Victory
  • Nobody Knows
  • Wild Animals
  • Wait So Long
  • Don't Look Down
  • Shining Star
  • Ghosts
  • It's a War
  • Swimming Song

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