Sunday, April 16, 2006

Good Mixers

The Concretes/Adem, Carling Academy 2, Birmingham, Wednesday April 5 2006.

Go shorty, it's your birthday, as Curtis Jackson would no doubt say to your correspondent if he was lucky enough to possess his mobile number, so indeed Dead Kenny sets off to Birmingham to celebrate, in the company of the lovely Alison and Jo, by seeing Swedish eight-piece chamber-pop ensemble The Concretes.

Things get off to an ominous start when the security staff are overheard muttering 'here comes the rush, then' as the three of us approach the Box Office. The Concretes are one of those bands that, when you're into them, you assume are much more popular than they actually are. While they've made some tremendous pop choonage that ought to be a mainstay in mainstream radio programming, and received pretty much universal praise for their stellar debut, they're still very much in a cultish ghetto if tonight's attendance is a reliable indicator. Your correspondent has never known the Academy 2 to be so quiet on entering the venue, although there are more there than you'd expect for the lack of noise.

Maybe this is partly down to hushed reverence for the appearance of Adem, who probably expected a bigger turnout when he signed up for this support slot. Adem seems a friendly sort but there's something about neat bearded men with glasses (cf. Wayne Hemingway, Elvis Costello) that always makes me think their pleasant, genial demeanour masks hidden reserves of passive aggression. We're sure that Adem is the most relaxed, laid-back individual on this (or any other) planet but we'd still run away and hide if an airport ever lost his luggage, just to be on the safe side, thanks. And so we join the rest of the audience in paying subdued respect to the man who, quite reasonably, judged that he had far too good a singing voice to stick around playing bass for instrumental group Fridge.

Adem appears to dabble in the Radio 2 end of the folktronica genre, alternating between beige acoustic strums and edgier electronic numbers, and including a balanced mix of songs from (well-received) solo debut 'Homesongs' and the upcoming follow-up 'Love And Other Planets' (out in stores on April 24, record release fact fans). Don't quite see the Radiohead comparisons that other people have made, but it might only take one song to capture the imagination of radio programmers or advertising consultants for him to go and do a Moby on us.

The venue slowly starts to fill up a little more by the time The Concretes hit the ground running with opening number 'Fiction'. On stage, lead singer Victoria's secret is to be more deadpan than an incinerated pizza, raising a lot of laughs in between a set which contains healthy servings from the last two albums. Although recent release 'In Colour' has received some wan reviews, the standouts from that record ('On The Radio'; 'Chosen One' and 'Song For The Songs') compare well with old favourites like 'You Can't Hurry Love' and 'Chico'. Their music may not currently be in fashion with today's tastemakers, but the intimate turnout combined with some great songs and the band's sardonic humour makes for great feelgood fuzz fit to commemorate your correspondent's (re?)birth on the planet. The cracks might be showing in The Concretes' commercial prospects then, but they can still lay on a solid night's entertainment.

While we finish off our drinks, we're ushered out towards the exit, where some of the band are hanging out apres-gig. Jo engages two of the guys in conversation, while willowy blonde drummer Lisa Millberg (whose rendition of 'Your Call' for the encore was one of the highlights of the evening, wherefore wert thou, Romeo?) stretches herself out in a chair in a manner one can only describe as inviting. Having already made a damn fool of myself with the girl from Comanechi earlier that week, Dead Kenny's hesitation allows Alison to step up to the plate and tell Lisa she thinks she's a mermaid. Lisa's reply? 'Erm...no-one's ever said that to me before' before heading off to the loo. Tom Hanks was unavailable for comment at the time of going to press.

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