The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Andy Thomas , November 5th, 2013 05:50

Andy Thomas goes to the Islington Assembly Hall for an intimate concert by Midlake, and finds that new material stands up perfectly well against the old

The title track that opens the Texan's fourth LP Antiphon is such a storming signal of intent, that you might have expected the band to open with it on their return to London. That they opt for a track that features one of Tim Smith's finest vocal performances is a sign of the band's self-confidence since his departure. The melancholy of 'Young Bride' owed much to the haunting voice of Smith, who left the band last year, so it's a brave opener. It's an even braver decision for the band's previous chief harmoniser, Eric Pulido who has been thrust centre stage as lead vocalist at this intimate venue.

While there is a slight wavering as he delivers the first notes, there is also an assured calm to his voice as the song builds. Since Smith's departure, band members have been keen to express the importance of the unit rather than the individual. And as the three part harmonies of this standout from The Trials Of Van Occupanther fill this atmospheric hall, it's clear that the collective sound has not been diminished.

'We Gathered In Spring' was always one of the more complex songs on that second LP and it sounds great tonight, the acoustic beauty of the song carried wonderfully by Pulido. Prior to the release of the new LP he said:  "On Antiphon we wanted to embrace the psychedelia, style and nuance you might hear in bands from yesteryear…The result was less folk and more rock. Less nostalgic and more progressive." And the title track sounds even weightier and kaleidoscopic here tonight than on the LP, stretched and freaked out to stunning effect.

Yet while this is clearly the band's most intense and symphonic offering, it still exhibits the mysterious and ethereal glow that made both The Trials Of Van Occupanther and The Courage Of Others so enticing. What also made those LPs so infectious was their capacity to hook you in on repeated listens. As the band open into 'Provider' the second number from Antiphon we feel similarly hooked, after only hearing the track once before. The propelled drumming, proggy keyboards and psychedelic wall of guitars provide space for a relaxed Pulido to intone a typically evocative line about being followed down foxholes in the ground.

The Courage of Others' 'Rulers, Ruling All Things' sounds particular majestic. Any yearnings amongst the crowd for a voice lost have largely been silenced by the time the band go back to their debut. 'Kingfish Pies' is introduced as a song still very special to the band. But tonight is really about how well songs off the new LP are received, and as the band launch into 'It's Going Down' and 'Aurora Gone' they already sound like old classics. By the time the band return with the splendour of 'Roscoe', Eric Pulido has earned his huge smile and shout of "come on yeah".