Ghostpoet, Alt-J, Likes Lions, Wooderson: DQ, Sheffield

Tom and Emil of Xrayhorse look a little tense manning the door and stamping hands at DQ this evening as they host a remarkably eccentric bill topped by the prestigious booking of the genre-busting Ghostpoet.

Wooderson are first up and open the show to a near empty DQ; a band difficult to pigeon hole, but float somewhere between the raw energy of At The Drive-In, and the do-what-the-fuck-we-want ethos of Holy Bible-era Manic Street Preachers.  Vocal duties are primarily shared between Ash Morton and Loic Tuckey who together possess both extremes of Fugazi front-man Ian MacKaye.  Stand out track comes third in the shape of ‘Sleep Walking’, built around an infectious guitar riff and bass stabs, topped with captivating vicious and jittery bellowing.  Elsewhere, ‘Too Many Questions’ is an onslaught of crashing drums and deafening guitars that Future of the Left would be proud to call their own.

The youthful Like Lions take to the stage next, looking rather overwhelmed to be part of such a grandiose bill.  They shouldn’t be, as they play their songs with great technical ability and aplomb.  This is also perhaps their downfall as it’s almost too clinical and tires quickly; spontaneity is sparse in their half-hour set with each chord sequence and melody having been heard many times before in the early-00’s American rock sound they appear to strive for.  Lead singer Rich Bristow has an impressive range and at times, the group descend from anthemic sing-a-longs into more interesting Forward Russia choppy beats and the dancing guitar lines of Youth Movies. Too often though, an unwelcome force tugs them back towards the middle of the road.

Alt-J’s name has been bouncing, albeit in whispers, around the corridors of BBC HQ recently after being championed regularly on 6music.  While Joe Newman’s eyes dart around the audience in a very much friendly and comforting manner, the band generate a sound that puts you into a dream state; each instrument is played so delicately, one would imagine they would never depreciate in value.  Each song is accompanied by the most minimal of arrangements allowing the unique melodies and intricacies to shine.  Alt-J have the effortless ability to change things up too; ‘Matilda’ is a loving folk tale of croaky repeats of the vague but touching line ‘And she needs you / this is from Matilda’, whereas set closer ‘Fitzpleasure’ shapeshifts its way through Gregorian chanting and dirty synth bass-lines.  A lazy comparison for this Leeds bunch would be Wild Beasts, but Alt-J are an altogether different beast of their own merit.

Fresh from a prosperous 2011, Ghostpoet (real name Obaro Ejimiwe) returns to Sheffield after his triumphant gig at the Harley last year.  Donning his trademark bowler hat and thick-rimmed spectacles, he is right at home within the dingy black walls and blood-red lighting of DQ.  Obaro is in his element handling the electronics, while his pedal-laden guitarist and diverse drummer help Ghostpoet escape being simply a ‘hip-hop’ act.  They are at their best when they stray from their laid-back sound of their record with ‘Survive it’ and set closer  ‘Cash and Carry Me Home ’; the former being Obaro’s famed story-telling nonchalantly rapped over an organ’s simple four chords and a catchy female-led RnB chorus (which is not sang live tonight, but sampled), the latter being a brooding assault of down-tempo garage synths and lyrics spat with serious conviction in what could be the soundtrack to London’s underworld.  The band delve into the experimental too; ‘Liiines’ twists and turns before culminating into a wall of ethereal white noise which proves you never quiet know what to expect from Ghostpoet.  Obaro and his band leave the stage to cheers from an adoring crowd which marks the success of such a varied night.  Those twitchy Xrayhorse boys of four hours earlier really had nothing to worry about.