Bush Hall is an opulent setting fixed with a carpeted floor, chandeliers and Greek style interior architecture. On entering I was struck by the seeming oxymoron of chilled out fans sprawled across the floor in an environment where it seems you have to be very careful not to touch anything.
To warm up the night came The Go Find, the project of softly spoken Belgian Dieter Sermeus. The Go Find’s melodies are bouncy yet relaxed, perhaps too much so seeing as many people didn’t bother leaving the comfort of the floor as if the band were rudely interrupting their picnic. Sermeus’ sweet and unintrusive vocals compliment the humming synth which on CD is very relaxing, but came across as a little dull in the flesh. The musicians’ attempts to rock out (and there were many) seemed oversold and under-practised and to rock out like a metal guitarist in a soft electronic-pop band seems a tad odd. The Go Find are a good band, but not ‘forgetting how much your back hurts’ good. I was waiting for the song to finish so I could continue my conversation with my friend, rather than waiting for the next song so my friend would shut up.
Next up was what we’d paid for, The Album Leaf; solo project of San Diego multi-instrumentalist Jimmy Lavalle born in 1998 (the project that is, we weren’t watching some 12 year old prodigy and if we were then his beard growing skills are second to none).
As I watched the live band members set up (all 11 of them including a string quartet and ex-Rogue Wave member Gram LeBon) I edged my way closer to the stage. Such was the intimacy of the gig that I was tantalised by the ‘on/off’ switch of LaValle’s keyboard centimetres away from my person, however I decided that I wanted to hear the music and not ruin everyone’s evening which I’m sure Jimmy appreciated.
The bands members filed on stage and Jimmy LaValle in all his unswaying cool took his seat at one of his many keyboards and began to play a melody typical of his legacy; simple, sweet and catchy but you knew it was about to expand into a much more powerful noise. Watching LaValle’s versatility as he swapped instruments and signalled to band members it was time to join in was like watching an unfaltering machine and the result was satisfaction. Never missing a note, he produces very similar sounds to the recorded versions but live there seemed to be more of the post-rock, epic and climactic elements as oppose to his more dreamlike and ambient recordings.
The hauntingly beautiful sounds of the string quartet was a welcome bonus and really thickened up the overall sound. There were some nice little touches on the glockenspiel and the electronic drums and samples mixed seamlessly with the drummer.
The night was all about the sound over the show, with only a few breaks in the music to spin out some clichéd banter about how happy they were to be there etc. But the concentration on the music made this a memorable performance with Jimmy LaValle modestly bobbing so close to me I could have clasped a hand on his knee (not sure how he would have reacted).
With the pitch-perfect band and the great acoustics and general sound at Bush Hall working hand in hand, band and audience alike are satisfied by every note and I certainly forgot how much my back hurt.