They’ve have been around since 1999, were championed by John Peel and their ‘Sky at Night’ album was nominated for the Mercury Prize in 2010. However, I must confess to having been pretty unaware of I Am Kloot until recently. Like Jarvis Cocker and Pulp in the 1990s, real success has taken a long time to catch up with I Am Kloot, but at last it seems to be arriving. Having heard tracks from their acclaimed new album, ‘Let It All In’ (produced by Elbow’s Guy Garvey), I decided to check them out at Warwick Arts Centre, for a sold-out gig, at the end of their current UK tour.
However, first up tonight is singer songwriter Jesca Hoop. Last year I reviewed her performance at Birmingham’s Glee Club for Gig Junkies and was well impressed. However, on this occasion Jesca is only playing a support set and there is nothing like the warm and intimate atmosphere of the Glee Club. The large audience is seated in darkness in the theatre and interaction is difficult, something that I Am Kloot are also to find. Nevertheless, Jesca gives it her best and puts it well when she says that the room is telling people to be quiet. As she tunes her guitar she chats to the crowd, telling us it’s her last night touring with the boys, who are “a good group of lads”. As an American living in Manchester, she has a bit of fun with the language and cultural differences, telling us she has adopted English words and phrases like ‘fancying’ things, although she never says “bugger-off” (titters from the audience).
Jesca turns in a good set tonight, armed solely with her little electric guitar and without the backing musicians I previously saw her playing with. We get a short, but good selection of her songs, including ‘The House that Jack Built’, ‘DNR’, ‘Hospital’ and ‘Hunting My Dress’, but not, alas, the wonderful ‘Murder of Birds’. She has a great voice and some excellent songs, with interesting and quirky lyrics and arrangements. Jesca Hoop is well worth checking-out.
I Am Kloot are John Bramwell (vocal and guitar), Peter Jobson (bass) and Andy Hargreaves (drums) and they come from Manchester. However, on this tour they are joined by three other musicians who capably elaborate the sound with keyboards, electric guitar and various brass and wind instruments. The stage lighting and the set-up stays the same throughout and there is no leaping about or other distractions (in fact bass player Jobson sits down, scarcely moving, for the whole set). The emphasis is purely on delivering the songs. I Am Kloot are very much about John Bramwell’s lyrics, which tend to be melancholy and deal with all aspects of the human condition…and, er,…often drinking (eg. ‘Proof’). In fact Bramwell described their last album as being about ‘drinking and disaster’. Listening to the songs through the evening, phrases constantly stick in the brain, an indication of the quality of the lyric writing.
While the words are very much to the fore, the music is also impeccably crafted. Their songs are generally slow-paced and many are quiet and contemplative, but others really crank-up the noise. They kick-off with a favourite from their early career, ‘From Your Favourite Sky’, although most of the material tonight comes from the two latest albums. Indeed they play most of ‘Let It All In’, starting with ‘Bullets’. There are many stand-out songs through the evening, such as the rather lovely ‘The Same Deep Water As Me’.
World-weary John Bramwell, with a pint of beer in his hand and his matter of fact northern accent (his vocals remind me of those of Alex Turner of Sheffield’s Arctic Monkeys) is a natural frontman and raconteur. He manages to break through the impersonal atmosphere of the theatre, but would clearly prefer it wasn’t a sit-down venue. He describes the audience’s situation as being ‘psychologically constrained’, although he assures us we will ‘mellow’ through the evening.
Half way through we get the new single, ‘Some Better Day’: Someone shouts out “I’ll give it five” (reference, 1960s TV pop show ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars’, for younger readers). “Out of what?” retorts Bramwell, to cackles from the audience. Shortly afterwards the others leave the stage, leaving Bramwell with his guitar to play solo. He performs two songs alone, ‘At the Sea’ and ‘Astray’. He tells us that a few years ago the other band members were suddenly quite keen for him to do a solo spot – then he realised that this keenness for his solo and for them to leave the stage coincided with the introduction of the smoking ban.
The evening ends with one of its true highlights, a single song encore, ‘These Days Are Mine’, a cracking good track and the ‘big song’ from the new album. The song ups the decibels and features some delightful drone din created on guitar and harmonium.
Setlist: From Your Favourite Sky; Morning Rain; Northern Skies; Bullets; Shoeless; Masquerade; Hey Little Bird; Let Them All In; Some Better Day; The Same Deep Water As Me; Hold Back the Night; At the Sea; Astray; I Still Do; Fingerprints; To the Brink; Mouth On Me; Lately; Radiation; Proof. Encore: These Days Are Mine.