Live Review: Lamb @ The Institute, Birmingham – 30/10/14

With Andy Barlow by his side, bassist Jon Thorne hobbles onto the stage hiding his obvious pain behind a smile. After a few anticipatory seconds, vocalist Lou Rhodes demurely glides on attired like a Grecian Princess Leia. As entrances go, nothing could be more contrasting. Taking his place amongst the bank of keyboards and associated technology, Barlow initiates the thunderous bassline of In Binary, taken from their latest album Backspace Unwind, whilst Thorne picks up his electric double-bass. Rhodes stands regally between them.

Honed over the last 18 years, the perfect contrast between the compositional breaks and beats and the ethereal vocals give Lamb their sound and identity. The bass build of We Fall In Love, the first single from their latest album, sends vibrations through the floor as it grows in intensity, before giving way to the enchanting siren call of Rhodes’ voice. Little Things from their Fear Of Fours album, harks back to an earlier sound, incorporating late 90s drum and bass and sees strobes shoot out from the stage like light sabres. They soon have the room in their grasp due in no small part to Barlow’s constant hands-in-the-air enthusiasm. When he is not leading the bassline assault on tracks like Strong The Root, with its genre splicing mix of folk and futurism, he is venturing to the front of the stage and encouraging the crowd to go wild. Rhodes supplies plenty of between-song banter, acting like a genial host at a party and informing us that their bassist’s injury is due to overexcitement at the previous night’s gig in Brighton.

The opening piano chords of Gabriel are met with the biggest cheers of the night so far, the track demonstrating how symphonic their music can be. Listening to Lamb deliver a career-spanning set is like taking a whistle-stop tour through the pioneering electronica of the last few decades. From the trip hop of Massive Attack through to the experimentation of Aphex Twin and the shadow lands of Burial, they all find a place within the make-up of As Satellites Go By and What Makes Us Human. They encore with a rendition of What Sound? which sees a shift in the pattern as both Barlow and Rhodes take to the drums. If there is only ever one Lamb song that needs to be heard it is the exquisite Górecki. As a set closer it is untouchable tonight, its monumental crescendo driven by Barlow’s drumming is simply breath-taking, leaving just the haunting sound of the double-bass hanging in the rarefied air.

Words: Andrew Gutteridge

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