The first of tonight’s two support acts is Green Gardens. They are a fairly unremarkable looking bunch of young lads (if you ignore the fact that one of them is a clear foot taller than the rest) but the music they play doesn’t quite fit their look. At first glimpse it’s a four-piece Belle & Sebastian-ish, Coldplay-like sound but it doesn’t take much in the way of paying attention to realise that, actually, these songs have real depth to them. They aren’t afraid of breaking the four-minute barrier and they use their tight harmonies well to give nice dynamics to how the songs build towards the end. The lyrics aren’t particularly hum-drum either and there are definitely darker roots to some of the lines being delivered in a deceptively sweet way.
There seems to be more to come from Green Gardens, just under the surface, that is itching to claw its way out and I get the feeling that if it does they could produce some really good material.
Raza are next and they waste no time in taking us to a very different part of town. Anyone who is a fan of Three Trapped Tigers will find a lot to like here – boundaries getting warped under a wash of electronic sounds and brilliant jazz drumming.
It took me a while to get a handle on Raza’s music – the best I could come up with is that it’s like modern jazz for the ecstasy generation (although I think most of the members of that generation have got mortgages and Mondeos these days) and that it may well be experimental to the point of division. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. By the end of the evening I would find myself entirely pleased with the enormous variation displayed on stage across the three sets and I don’t think that would’ve been the case if Raza weren’t included.
Francois & the Atlas Mountains have an enormous amount to live up to. The last time I saw them on tour they covered several bases and ended the night with a maelstrom of energy and noise. I have basically set them the impossible task of topping that.
To spare the suspense, they don’t go all Underworld this time. Instead, they make incredibly light work of bringing the crowd in and putting smiles on their faces as their almost parody-level-Frenchness gushes out into the room. There’s an immediate sense that they want everyone to just get involved. In his wildly patterned, matching shirt and trousers, Francois is a frontman who, despite actually being quite small, seems bigger than the entire building. He’s a constant source of energy and instigates regular dance routines with one or two of his bandmates, just to throw an extra party flavoured cherry on top of the show.
The overall feel of the music tonight is of upbeat, calypso-infused, undiluted indulgence and it manages to bring the sunshine from outside into the dark recesses of the Brudenell. There are moments when the music threatens to embark on the wildly varied craziness of last time but it never quite ventures down that route. A particular highlight is an engrossing eastern-themed number that dissolves into an almost trance-like state, the chanting vocals and addictive, rhythmic playing plunging us into a Himalayan worm hole.
Wherever they decide to take the set, they are always keen to take the audience with them and don’t miss a chance to interact with the surprisingly modest crowd, so much so that the night ends up feeling more like a friendly get together.
The set never goes ballistic and I don’t leave the gig feeling like I’ve gone into the future at any point but that’s ok. I do leave feeling better than I did when I arrived and that is surely all you need. Francois and the Atlas Mountains are a good band – there’s no two ways about it. They have a natural ability to throw their arms around a crowd and take them away from everything else, even if it is just for a little while and that is a reassuring and invaluable thing to have in the world.