Monday 19 September 2011

Miracle Fortress at Madame JoJo's - 13 September 2011

Miracle Fortress by Cindy Lopez

There are strange things happening in the venue.

One of the in-house security guys has got it into his head that on no account must any object, be it a bag or a coat, touch the floor. So for most of the time while the first band are onstage, I am watching this petty martinet harassing punters, only for them to break his cockamamie rule as soon as his back is turned. It’s ludicrous and it is insulting. And of course, once the venue fills up, he is unable to do it.

The three guys who comprise I Ching are rather a sideshow to this kerfuffle. They stand in a line and are a bit synth-y, but are generally so wishy washy that they can’t hold your attention even when you are looking directly at them. The kindest thing to say about them is that they are not offensive and they don’t hang around for long.

Brasstronaut start off very well. This six piece outfit from Vancouver include a trumpet and an electric clarinet, which they put to good use.

On the whole, I would say that they are a jazz band with some indie leanings rather the other way round. They are prone to lengthy semi-improvised excursions that detract from the rather Randy Newman piano/vocal style of Edo Van Breemen.

Their very first song is terrific, a heartfelt piano ballad that gradually builds into something epic, as all the other musicians come in and do their stuff. The problem that they run into is that all their material is very similar and, despite the number of people on stage, they are not particularly dynamic. I’d be interested in their recorded works, however.

Miracle Fortress is essentially a solo project of talented musician Graham Van Pelt, although he is joined here this evening by a live drummer. The album ‘Five Roses’ was big favourite around certain parts and it has been a number of years since there has been a sighting of this iteration – possibly because Van Pelt has been touring with his other outfit Think About Life.

At first, things seem a little off. The sound of the vocal is extremely muddy, and the tunes seem rather naff. I rather cruelly compare him to Coldplay and receive a chastening boot on the shin from a companion.

And then things get very unexpected. Making use of an impressive set of lasers and day-glo lights, much of the rest of the set is devoted to full on 80’s disco-flavoured stompers that are very fine, even if the ghost of Daft Punk’s ‘Discovery’ album looms rather obviously over proceedings.

We boogie about and don’t care where on the floor we put our bags. Everything is rattling along very nicely.

Unfortunately, good things cannot last, and the last number is another solo ‘Coldplay’ tune. Not unpleasant, in fact exactly the opposite. Too damn nice.

An interesting if not wholly successful evening.

And seriously, Madame JoJo’s – sort your staff out.

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