by Ben Adsett
The Fleece, Bristol 17/02/2018
Standing in a packed room, waiting for the headline act creates anticipation you can almost see. The room huddles closer and closer to the stage then finally the music drops, the lights drop and through the dark come two men dressed all in white, like Droogs from A Clockwork Orange to take the stage.
Before this excitement at the start of the night, Loa Loa rattled through an accomplished set of angry indie rock. With off kilter guitar and drum lines combining well with a varied vocal range. This was followed by the surfgaze of Gender Roles, pairing angular guitars, rolling drums and complete with some very catchy hooks. Both supports played well but playing with JL is somewhat of a poisoned chalice.
Jamie Lenman has the audience eating from the palm of his hand as soon as he enters the room. He instantly draws focus and holds it for a full hour set. Accompanied only by a drummer the live versions of most songs are stripped back but without losing any volume or intensity. They are a well oiled live machine who clearly have a good head for adapting existing songs for their double dose live performance.
The combination of stage presence, likability and a back catalogue that spans over a decade create a current show with just the right amount of nostalgia. Acoustic songs from muscle memory are cleverly tweaked from acoustic to electric, Ruben songs are condensed into drums, vocals and guitars and the new cuts sound incredible. Devolver was a very ambitious release and creates a perfect bridge between the quiet and loud sides of Muscle Memory.
Musically Lenman and drummer Dan Kav are sublime. Not a not or a beat out of place for the entire set. Even when they swapped instruments.
In an evening full of highlights there was one moment that stood out: the drummer from a local Rueben tribute act was invited to take over on drums. Just imagine how amazing that would feel. If you loved a band so much you played as a tribute act then were invited to play with the singer from that band. If anything this moment mad the crowd love Jamie Lenman even more.
The well rounded set finished with Mississippi, before an acoustic encore broke hearts, encouraged singalongs and created a near perfect ending.