The tunes might be new, but there’s a warm familiarity as members of two long-running and ongoing bands play solo, turning the Annandale into an acoustic lounge room session – at least, as acoustic as you can make an electronic album.
You Am I’s Davey Lane has been popping up everywhere since the release of his first solo EP a few months back. ‘You’re The Cops, I’m The Crime’ is a pleaser tonight, but he seems to have moved beyond that material already, introducing ‘Comfortably Dumb’ as “one of those needlessly confusing songs with too many chords”, and slipping in newies until they comprise half the set. Based on the jaunty blues-rock of ‘Shopping’ and the ominous darkness of ‘The Undergrowth’, which on first listen could be his most distinct solo work yet, this is good news. With just his guitar, Lane’s sounding comfortable onstage but his endearingly awkward chatter continues to be a defining feature.
When Ian Ball, best known as the crisper-sounding vocalist in Gomez, bounces onstage alone with an acoustic guitar and clicks on his laptop, there’s an uncertainty. Are we going to watch him strum and sing along to his full new electronic pop album, Unfold Yourself? Turns out, yes, at first we are. And it makes sense. Whereas in ear buds these dancefloor anthems sound a bit too clean for a career performer of bluesy sing-alongs, in person Ball stamps his own voice all over songs like ‘Memory Test’ and ‘Open Sesame’. The beats pumping out are simply backing to his own voice, while his fingers swiftly dart from guitar to synth, triggering loops like a nervous cook checking the oven settings. The transformation from indie-roots to house music seems logical.
About four songs in, Ball throws himself open to requests from the vocal crowd. Over the next hour these range from Gomez hits (‘Fill My Cup’, ‘In Our Gun’, ‘Get Myself Arrested’) to solo album tracks (‘Sweet Sweet Sleep’, ‘The Elephant Pharmacy’), and when he cocks up or needs prompting for the first line, the smiles just get wider. Eventually, Ball declares an end to the festivities and demands choice of the last song. Pressing ‘play’ on his laptop it’s obviously going to be a selection from the album – and then he launches into a cover of 10CC’s ‘I’m Not In Love’. It’s an unexpected end to a highly spontaneous set.
BY SIMON TOPPER