Having a bit of Lambchop (@lambchopisaband) on an Easter Sunday, what could be more traditional? Inside of EartH, a huge venue which more closely resembles a derelict space dock consisting of a massive berth where space freighters dry docked whilst selling space spice. Fever dreams aside the acoustics of its high and far reaching ceiling are superb being practically three storeys above the ground at their highest points. Unlike most groups I've seen in recent months which spread out and utilize every bit of stage space Lambchop by contrast bunch together, like the herd animals of the Serengeti. Clustered together in the middle of the stage are dual drumkits, a grand piano, steel guitar and tall stool with 'Lambchop' stickered on the back of it. Atop the stool resides a closed tan and weathered '40s era suitcase having seen considerable mileage. What's inside the case you ask? Well unlike Pulp Fiction's glowing mystery we'll soon collectively discover 12 lyrical treasures reside within.
Shortly after nine Kurt (Vocals/Guitar) and the gang make their way on stage and to their instruments in an unhurried pace. Their manner reminds me of the way a group of long time friends might sit around an old table for an evening meal. Everyone's familiar with the setup after years of ritual and ready to eat with a relaxed air, think alfresco dining in the Mediterranean. The members look as varied as their instruments, some in blazers and button down shirts in smart/casual footwear while others are in blown out jeans, faded t-shirts and rundown sneakers. There's a woodcraft hobbyist meets suburban garage band vibe going on .
Kurt sports his usual 'CO-OP' trucker hat and thick framed glasses as he leans into the mic, "we're just going to play some music for a while" kicking off the informal set with 'The Air Is Heavy' and 'I Should Be Listening To You' (thanks Setlist FM!). I'm sitting cross legged at stage level about 15 feet away from the band. As always the instruments and tones are perfectly balanced with each lending to the other in a series of perfectly timed hand-offs. This is the second time I'm seeing Lambchop sitting down. The last time was nearly 7 years ago to the day. In March of 2012 I caught them at The Barbican ahead of their 11th album release, we're now at album 13 and one thing still remains true, the band is consistently brilliant. Both times I remember thinking what perfect and beautiful control the musicians have over their instruments while making it look effortless. Last time the drums (a 1 piece) were front and center, this time (both drum sets) at the back. At The Barbican the drummer started playing, I was in the middle of the second row from the stage and remember seeing the drum sticks moving but hearing no sounds until they wanted me to, this time was no different. Over my shoulder I hear a pair in hushed tones say, "you have no idea how complicated what they're playing is." He was right, but it didn't stop me or them from enjoying ourselves because Lambchop don't over-complicate the matter. The music and lyrics lend themselves well to both music aficionados and appreciators alike.
As you'd expect the performance went off without a hitch, 25 years worth of practice'll do that for ya. There were however a few conversations about an errant pigeon that seemed to concern the band and staff however the sky rat never made an appearance and to the best of my knowledge no one was dropped on. The acoustics as previously mentioned were absolutely excellent. Although only using a fraction of the massive stage at EartH their presence reverberated off ceilings and walls alike filling the vast auditorium completely. In terms of personal preference I've got a few bones that need picking. I think Kurt has one of the loveliest voices in the biz and superb control over its range and hushed tones. That being said why he'd go and put it through the equivalent of a cheese grater using processing effects for a large majority of the gig for reasons I cannot fathom. Maybe he's like the rest of us and isn't a fan of the sound of his own voice? Doubtful but I'm clutching at straws here racking my brain trying to understand why. For the finale 'Up With People' he's got the processing turned up to 11. Sitting as close as I was you could clearly see even Kurt himself put off by the sound. He quickly stands back from the mic and turns the processor's dial way down. Processed vocals on this dudes magical pipes are like face tattoos, maybe, but you know probably not a really great idea. Also, they did not play 'Is A Woman' the first track I ever heard by them which will always hold a special place in my heart.
Aside from that I could not ask for a better way to spend my Sunday afternoon. I got to sit down and listen to some glorious tunes from a couple of legends and even heard a few hilarious jokes from Tony Crow (Piano/Vocals) who assured Kurt that everything was under control because even though he was high he also practices high, so it's cool. Kurt mentions something about heading home after this tour to get back to friends and loved ones and maybe even some 'action' to which Tony replies. “My sex life is like the song 'Freebird', it's a 5 minute solo. Life goes on, we get older, nothing we can do about it", sage advice. Some music, bit of humor throughout the evening involving a couple of birds, a bit of wisdom and that's a wrap.