Spotlight Cannibal / El Born / Calista Kazuko / Claudia Arnold / Cardboard Carousel [Live Review – The Boileroom, Guildford, 26/6/14]
A week after The Boileroom first announced its status as a newly threatened independent live music venue, it’s great to see the team there aren’t letting the stress and pressure get in the way of still more amazing shows. Tonight ran as smoothly as ever, and any raw and agitated nerves were most likely soothed (if temporarily) by the following acts:
Soothing folk performed with remarkable grace by a multi-tasking guitarist and elegantly in-control double bassist. I loved – loved – the vocal interplay these guys work seamlessly into their songs. Consistently pitch-perfect and clearly the result of untold hours of rigorously disciplined practice, it really blew me away. Masterfully timed dynamic shifts and a mysterious smell like toasted marshmallows wafting through the air just added to the awesomeness.
A solo singer-songwriter studying at the ACM, Claudia Arnold did her college proud with a super confident stage- and room-owning set. The hours of practice showed here too – whatever sacrifices were made to get that good were absolutely worth it. Claudia Arnold performs with a ton of guts, passion, and at times brutal intensity; this girl obviously has something to prove, and this set is definitely a step in the right direction.
It’s been a long time since I listened to anything from the world of musical theatre. To be totally honest, I used to hate it so much that listening to anything from a musical’s soundtrack – with the sole exception of Avenue Q – made me feel physically ill.
I was pleasantly surprised, then, to find that my Broadway-induced allergies seemed to have cleared up in time for this set. It’s too early to tell if I’m permanently in the clear, but I really enjoyed Calista Kazuko’s moment in The Boileroom’s multi-coloured and at times strobing spotlight. Combining a strong, aggressive attitude with sex-kitten sultriness and some serious keyboard skills, this was a textbook performance delivered with a liberal helping of idiosyncratic flair.
The only real downside here was the crowd chatting so loudly that they drowned out the PA at times. Talking over Calista Kazuko’s set (or any low-volume performance) should be a criminal offence, and if that were the case many of the punters present would be in prison now. Musicals are often about dreams coming true; if only reality worked the same way.
I knew these guys had a serious reputation as a stellar live act before this evening even began. Now I know why.
The retro vibes are strong with El Born, but that’s no bad thing when they’re projected with so much energy and emotional depth. El Born wear their hearts on their sleeves, much as ERIKA did on the same stage some time ago; and it’s impossible to resist this kind of generosity. There’s a great balance of personality too – balls to the wall attitude during songs, with more than a few show-stopping moments, and a low-key bit of banter between cuts.
Pure coolness and a real respect for their audience make El Born a band you need in your life – unless of course you don’t have a soul.
It’s been a long time since I last saw these guys live, and they’ve now pulled off something I previously thought was impossible. Spotlight Cannibal have always been groove merchants above all else; but for this set their impeccable sense of sledgehammer-solid timing was pushed up still another level. At this point, it’s mind-boggling to think that Spotlight Cannibal aren’t getting the exposure they deserve by now; The Boileroom is a great venue, but Spotlight Cannibal should be selling out bigger places. You just can’t stay still when these guys get going – and their latest load of tunes, showcased here as an entirely fresh set, are still another collection of flawlessly penned and performed songs.
Spotlight Cannibal can do no wrong. They’re so polished and professional it’s simply ridiculous, able to turn their hands to anything remotely Americana-related and twist it into something contemporary, British, and uniquely their own. Whether you’re witnessing none-more-syncopated riffs, short but generously filled mid-song solo spots, or bloody-mindedly physical one-inch-punches that could otherwise be called “rock tunes”, it’s all perfect. What else can be said? Get involved via Spotlight Cannibal’s social media pages, and prepare to have your brain pulped in the most blissful manner imaginable.
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