Thursday 10 November 2011

Givers, The Shivers at XOYO - 08 November 2011


I walk down the stairs of a chilly XOYO to be confronted by the fascinating and aptly-named-in-the-circumstances New York duo The Shivers.

Although confining themselves to guitar and keyboards, the band conjure an impressively wide range of music.

Keith Zarriello is pugnacious and direct and looks as though he might be useful in a fight, yet posses a voice that is sometimes a growl, sometimes a throaty roar and sometimes a near operatic trill. His colleague Jo Schornikow is one of the best keyboard players that I’ve seen, clearly properly trained rather than relying on the traditional two fingered ‘what does this button do?’ hopeful prodding.

On one track the pair sound as much like Sly Stone as it is possible for two people to get, on another there are traces of the Eighties Noo Yoik sound of Billy Joel. This is of course a good thing.

The Shivers are a bit jazzy, a bit muso, but are pleased to be here and have a good rapport with what is still at this stage a rather thin crowd. In fact, such is the sensitivity of their sound that a bit of space and quiet around the stage does them no harm at all.

Next up come local band Zulu Winter. This lot have back projection, stylish hair and are clearly under the impression that they are going places. I’d be amazed if this were the case.

The band lack spark. It would be lovely if they could parlay their swirling, windswept sound into something vital, but the truth is that they don’t have a single song that doesn’t fall short of its intent.

Musically, they sound fine in a populist Coldplay kind of way, but their tunes have no bite, no crunch, no soul. The word that I initially wrote in my notebook was ‘invertebrate’- they have no central spine, but are rather an amorphous pudding-y blob of a band.

Givers are a five piece band from Louisiana. I’m glad to finally see them, as their last scheduled London show was cancelled due to the summer riots.

It’s a small stage at XOYO, but Givers make it smaller still by crowding right to the very front, their equipment teetering on the edge. How Tiffany Lamson’s drum kit (one of two in the band) doesn’t end up in the crowd is a thing of wonder.

Lamson shares vocal duties with Taylor Guarisco, who clutches his guitar to his chest as though it were a loved one. The reports of Givers as being a ludicrously exciting and joyful band are about to be borne out.

Lamson smashes her drums with more power than seems possible. Watching her jump up and down, hair flying everywhere, her arms a blur is to immediately think back (or forward) to Animal of the Muppets.

A typical Givers song is an intricate beast, comprising several movements, a pounding Afrobeat and dual vocals that are part Merrill Garbus, part Yeasayer and partly something completely other. They aren’t songs that you can whistle, but your soul will be uplifted anyway.

The band is very chatty and engaging, which helps to distract from the unfortunate problem that they are rather disorganised and that they take way too long between songs. Even allowing for a bona fide five minute technical hiatus at one point, the band runs slow and late.

It is impossible to be cross with them though. They are as happy as a whole bed of clams and I am too. I climb the stairs of the venue with Givers’ mighty encore of ‘Up, Up, Up’ ringing in my ears. It seems appropriate.

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