sat 15/06/2024

Woodpigeon, Union Chapel | reviews, news & interviews

Woodpigeon, Union Chapel

Woodpigeon, Union Chapel

The Lib Dems of folk-pop provide alternative election night entertainment

Woodpigeon: a sort of lush pastoral folk-pop

Listening to Woodpigeon’s nuanced indie-folk, I looked around at the 300 or so strong crowd who had also chosen to spend the evening away from Peter Snow and his Swingometer. Some had their eyes closed, others were gently nodding, but mainly they were just smiling. And right then I’m sure they were thinking, as was I, that listening to these luxuriant Canadian harmonies was possibly the best way you could spend election night.

Woodpigeon has become known for a sort of lush pastoral sound that sits somewhere between Belle and Sebastian and Sufjan Stevens. And if the latter were the main parties – God knows which would be which – then Woodpigeon might be the Lib Dems; able to constantly delight through having limited exposure and audience expectations. Die Stadt Muzikanten, currently being promoted, is the Alberta collective’s third album in four years and continues the penchant for ostentatiously strange titles and full, almost orchestral, instrumentation. It pushes their sound beyond the acoustic guitars, layered vocals and pretty melodies, with the addition of fuzz and harder rhythms. The result the sort of music that can inspire impulse ticket purchases. Enough impulse to fill the Union Chapel.

They managed a charm not unlike the wobblier moments of Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue

Woodpigeon live has more energy and drive than on the CDs. Bearded Hamilton towers over the band looking like a bear and singing like a bird. Rhythm section Chris Dedge and Scott Munro provide a rock edge.  But the charisma well and truly belongs to keyboardist and violist cum backing singers and dancers, Annalea Sordi-McClure and Foon Yap. All laddered tights and flowers in their hair, they never stopped moving and grinning.

If they were one of the great pleasures of the night, another was the set list. Notwithstanding B-sides, EPs and unreleased tracks, the recorded albums total 45 songs; enough to swamp the highlights. But the 11 original songs played tonight were material sufficient to woo any self-respecting introvert.

The evening started off with the sonorous “Songbook”, which began a theme of the many varieties of love being bent out of shape. And then came a change of tempo with the rockier "Woodpigeon vs Eagleowl" and "My Denial in Argyle", songs which have probably helped work the crowd throughout the tour. Here, however, the acoustics caused the bass to disappear up the clock tower. Yet instead of falling flat they managed a charm not unlike the wobblier moments of Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue, with Sordi-McClure and Yap’s energy turning a sound that wasn’t good into an experience that felt great.

Maybe it was unfamiliarity but the slower tracks "Robin Song" and "Entanglement of Weeds" from the limited release Balladeer EP, kept the audience particularly attentive. The latter, with its theme of dying through heroic acts of love, had them spellbound for a full seven minutes.Lyrically it carried more than a hint of Stephin Merritt.

Light relief was promised with the Abba cover “Lay all Your Love on Me”, featuring Laura Gibson. But the reworking made it eerily melancholy, and fit naturally into the set. Hamilton, and his five piece touring band, have clearly worked very hard to rework their songs live and, acoustics aside, it makes you hope that they keep evolving and changing their sound. Particularly effective were the versions of "Morningside", now almost entirely expunged of its echoes of Joshua Radin’s "Winter", and  "Knock Knock" whose melody Hamilton sang as sweetly as the new leaves of spring with words as sad as the end of summer.

As “As the Ship Went Down” hit its cacophonous finale, the Chapel’s 10.30 curfew came and Hamilton and his troop sloped off as nonchalantly and eccentrically as they had ambled on; presumably to celebrate the end of the tour in a Holiday Inn somewhere. It made me think. Maybe Woodpigeon are not the Lib Dems after all. Maybe they are just the independent with the odd name. Not part of a scene; not really comparable to anything. Individual and all the better for it.

Overleaf: watch "Home as a Romanticized Concept..."

Maybe Woodpigeon are not the Lib Dems after all

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