Saturday, June 18, 2005

Waiting For The Sirens' Call

Ambulance LTD, Bar Academy, Birmingham, Tuesday June 14 2005.

Dead Kenny was still feeling so very tired from the previous weekend's wedding excesses, and so only decided at the last minute to seek resuscitation courtesy of New York's Ambulance LTD on Tuesday night. So by the time he arrived in a hot and sweaty Bar Academy, The Cinematics had already been and gone. Will perhaps have to wait until they come out on video, then.

Indeed, Ambulance LTD were already on stage, although this turned out just to be a soundcheck as they disappeared again for almost half an hour. Still, Dead Kenny relaxed and didn't think about the way they were treating us, instead indulging in a bit of interval crowdwatch. My LTD company for the night were a younger audience than expected, it seeming to be THE gig for sensitive student types to take their girlfriends as warm-up for waving their lighters to Coldplay at Glasto. Either that, or they just couldn't get a ticket to see BRMC (remember them?) who were no doubt being disappointing as normal next door in the main Academy.

Ambulance LTD started things off with 'Yoga Means Union' whose steadily-building instrumental jam made more sense as a live loosener than it did album intro. Next up was new single 'Primitive (The Way That I Treat You)' which may have triggered the bigger-than-expected audience: a shame then, that personable singer Marcus Congleton seemed to struggle throughout to reach the high notes of the chorus. Maybe it was just a touch of nerves, as this problem didn't recur through the rest of the set, which was mainly taken frown their excellent debut album with a 'coupla new jams' thrown in for good measure.

Ambulance LTD don't look, act or sound like a New York band should - only their lead singer could be described as conventionally good-looking and they'd look more at home as the houseband in Roadhouse than in a trendy Manhattan club. Also, rather than stylising their sound to replicate a particular band or period, they suffuse a range of styles (including blues, jazz, rock and shoegazing) into their own distinctive pop blend. Live, they have an unassuming and approachable manner but keep a tight sound and maintain a good-humoured rapport with the audience. This wouldn't mean much without good songs, however, but Ambulance LTD are well-stocked with these, and it was especially gratifying to see album tracks like the lilting 'Anecdote' and colossal 'Young Urban' greeted with as much enthusiasm as the singles 'Stay Where You Are' and 'Heavy Lifting'.

They're a band who'll never be as fashionable as, say, The Strokes, or Interpol, but their songcraft, musicianship and healthy attitude could well see Ambulance LTD achieve a longevity of career and reputation their peers will struggle to match. Try to catch them at Glasto, where they're last-minute additions to the bill as replacements to Cake.



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