By Andrew Seaton
November 24, 2012
So rushing across Highbury Crescent (Apple Maps is TERRIBLE – #firstworldproblems) we just about make it to the Garage. It’s a decent venue with pints at an extremely reasonable £4.50 (#sarcasm….no more hashtags, I promise). So a white, middle-class crowd have already staked their claim in front of the stage, on walks everyone’s favourite ornithologist and we’re away.
Immediately I notice there’s been a change in the Shearwater line-up. Gone is Thor (For those who don’t know Thor, he’s a really stacked guy who happens also to be an instrumentalist and braid one half of his hair in a pony tail with a ribbon). (SPOILER ALERT) I’m told by Steve Adams from Broken Family Band after the gig that he’s now in Swans (SPOILER END). Gone are some of the other familiar faces (Though not familiar enough for me to remember their names …) and with them their instruments – the double bass, the glockenspiel and so on. Instead we have a motley crew of late 20-somethings dressed in black with big guitars.
And here we come to the crux of the problem with Shearwater now. They like to play big, loud rock music and while that’s fine, you can’t help but think that’s not really what their brand is, right? After all, they started out as the quiet side project of Okkervil River. They were beautiful and tense and tight as they built up to crescendos and Jonathan Meiburg brought them crashing down with his haunting voice. As JM rattles through the hits from the latest album – ‘Breaking the Yearlings’, ‘Believing Makes It Easy’ and so on – I become aware that I’m not going to get that this evening. That is confirmed when he takes his shirt off (yep) at the end like Meatloaf before he got fat (was Meatloaf ever not fat?).
The only reprieve from this comes when, after shouting at the top of my voice a lot for it, JM plays ‘I Can’t Wait’ on his own with just his guitar to great acclaim & my joy. Despite this moment of magic I leave at show’s end feeling jaded and disappointed with the new direction of one of my favourite bands. Shit happens. The silver lining was, coming out of the gig, seeing Steve Adams hoisting broken umbrellas out of a bin with an umbrella of his own. Then he told me about Thor. And so the circle is complete.