Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Live Review - Smith & Burrows @ Union Chapel

Smith & Burrows Live at Union Chapel, London
December 12

by Linn Branson*
Photo by Alistair Burns

It was the hottest ticket in town for this, the only live UK date for Editors’ Tom Smith and ex-Razorlight (now I Am Arrows) drummer Andy Burrows, coming together as Smith & Burrows. Even the blustery, wet December weather did not deter a full congregation in north London’s Union Chapel. And a more perfect setting to display the Christmas-themed ware from their critically acclaimed debut Funny Looking Angels album would be hard to find.

Not that Messrs. S&B exactly dressed up for the evening, the pair looking like two slightly indie-worn cherubs in street casual jeans and wings – yes, those cutely cherubic protuberances from the album’s cover – were the order of the night. Not that it detracted from proceedings one iota. If the intent behind Funny Looking Angels was to ‘conjure images of friends coming home from the pub and reflective winter evenings’, then they brought it to life here: two comrades having a merry old time of it with a ‘few friends’ – aka the audience – who’ve popped round for a get-together, a few songs and plenty of cheer. There was even a raffle with prizes to be had, just to complete the air of all round bonhomie.

Throughout a set that took in much of the album’s content, there were also the inclusions of REM’s ‘Half A World Away’ and covers of Razorlight’s ‘America’ and ‘Before I Fall To Pieces’, with a guest appearance from Editors’ own drummer Ed Lay, deftly chiming sleigh bells; S&B’s own cover version of Yazoo’s ‘Only You’ also gets a look in. Not to be left out, Editors’ own ‘Papillon’ and ‘Walk The Fleet Road’ from the In This Light And On This Evening album were also thrown in the mix – neither of which sounded any less stirring performed as they were without full electrics, in an acoustic style; in fact, the opposite could easily be said, with more weight being handed over to the vocal and resonance given to the lyrical content.

Of course, the set’s honours had to go to the songs that have become familiar from the album, such as ‘The Christmas Song’, a short, poignant duet between Smith and band cellist, Isabelle Dunn; and ‘In The Bleak Midwinter’, with Smith taking up guitar midway, complete with a trumpet finale. Playing inter-changeable roles, on ‘If I Had A Heart’ (a Burrows work), it is Andy Burrows upon whom the light shines, taking charge of vocals and piano for this heartfelt little song.

Moments of magic there were in plenty. The album title track setting applause ringing, as does ‘As The Snowflakes Fall’ where Burrows’ vocals complement and balance Smith’s higher ethereal pitch. It sets a shiver down the spine, accompanied as it is by Dunn’s delightful cello and a trumpet solo. To round of the set comes ‘When The Thames Froze’, a five-minute-plus song, on which Smith this time plays keyboards to Burrows’ taking centre stage on guitar. Its lyric of ‘Goddamn this snow/Will I ever get where I want to go?’ may have set minds racing back to the UK’s last harsh snowbound winter, but on this particular night it could only gladden the heart. As the band take their bows at its end to ear-shattering applause and cheers, let’s hope we have not seen the last of these particular ‘funny looking angels’.

*Linn Branson is our special London correspondent. This is her first article for Officially A Yuppie, we are very happy to have her on board.