Reviewed on Friday April 4
Wintercoats is not your typical support band – in fact, James Wallace isn’t a band at all, though you would be excused for mistaking him for one if your eyes aren’t on the stage. Wallace records live instrumental loops one by one, all from his violin, until he has eight or nine repeated layers providing harmonies, melody and percussion, which he turns on and off with what must be a virtual keyboard of pedals. It’s completely engaging, essentially watching an expert craftsperson in a sonics lab, but it’s all brought back down a little by adding vocals. Wallace can sing, and when he adds vocals as a human layer to the complex mix he’s created, it’s a touching and occasionally eerie result. However, when his vocals become the primary focus of the songs, they run close to traditional tepid ballads, a sharp contrast to the skills he so confidently flaunts for the rest of the show.
As Sally Seltmann settles at her keyboard alone to delve immediately into ‘On The Borderline’, we’re reminded how joyful a voice and a light melody can be. There’s a heavy focus on the new album tonight, but she dips into all eras of her now extensive catalogue. Between the brand new ‘Dear Mr Heartless’, all the way back to New Buffalo’s sublime ‘Cheer Me Up Thank You’ and ‘I’m The Drunk And You’re The Star’, there’s not a huge level of diversity, but Seltmann shines in what she does – getting behind a keyboard and turning everyday routine into a delightful and sunny frolic.
She’s impeccably assisted tonight by Bree van Reyk on percussion, who’s adept at subtle accompaniment but then builds in intensity for ‘Right Back Where I Started From’, and offers all manner of effects like slide whistle and bells in ‘Needle In The Hay’. A saxophonist (sorry sir, couldn’t find your name!) also plays for around half the set, and while this isn’t a traditional trio of instruments, they combine to make enormously hummable and endearing pop music, anchored by Seltmann’s stunning voice and songs. It’s hard to suppress a grin, and leaving, you wonder why you were even trying.