Wednesday, October 3, 2007

king creosote @ queen's hall, 9/29/07

though it holds over 1000, edinburgh's queen's hall felt more like a rather spacious pub for saturday's king creosote gig. shaggy, chronically unshaven, and humble, kenny anderson - the man behind king creosote and fife's fence collective - acted like the show was no more than a pub session, albeit it with a slightly bigger crowd. the prolific recluse was totally at ease for the entirety of his hour-and-a-half set, telling jokes and stories, and chatting comfortably with friends in the audience. the crowd seemed to be solid fence faithful, cheering on the pictish trail's impressive guitar solos and chuckling at inside jokes about lone pigeon (a.k.a. gordon anderson, kenny anderson's brother, who now performs with the aliens), while king creosote ate it up. one of their few gigs in scotland, and the only one near fife, the queen's hall was packed with friends, family and fans, who cheered the almost-hometown heroes on for two encores, the last song a raucous version of the aliens' "the happy song." king creosote delivered a set that was more exceptional than his recorded works, refashioning his languorous folk into exuberant rock without sacrificing the allure of old loves, playing them with an honest tenderness and tangible excitement.

virtually unknown outside the uk (and, until recently, outside of scotland), kenny anderson enjoys his anonymity. and while his latest bombshell was released by 679 records, a division of warner, it is unlikely that it was propel him to heights of fame - he joked during the set that it peaked at no. 98 before plummeting - and there's no denying that king creosote is perfectly happy with that. with around 900 people in attendance on saturday, one of the biggest crowd KC has ever played to, the overwhelming emotion one felt from the stage was fright. in his own report on the show, the pictish trail details the churning of his insides, and the first thing anderson said when he came on stage was "now, let's not pretend this isn't weird." but it wasn't, not in the slightest. in fact, it was a joy. i came without earplugs, expecting an even-handed folk show. my mistake. king creosote lost whatever fear they might have had as anderson sang, wailed, and bellowed into the mic with an intensity totally unheard on his albums. though the king creosote i saw played the same songs as the other one, there's not many other similarities between the one i saw and the one in my headphones, and i was thrilled to hear it.

before king creosote blew me away, however, emma pollock opened the show. beloved in the scottish indie scene for her work with the delgados and chemikal underground, pollock recently released watch the fireworks, her solo debut, to mild acclaim. she performed well to a good-sized crowd, though many of her songs seemed plain; warmed-over indie rock. her set was not without highlights however - her single "adrenaline" was very well received, churning and bouncing, and another standout was "acid test," an edgy song with a wickedly catchy backbeat. while nice, pollock's songs lacked zest, leaving an otherwise excited crowd stranded. though her stint as an opener was pleasant, her songwriting ability is not developed enough to make me want to hear more.

kenny anderson came onstage ahead of schedule, alone and looking a bit sheepish, to thunderous applause. deftly avoiding the praise with a few self-deprecating barbs, he picked up his guitar and opened the show with a stark solo version of "and the racket they made," bombshell's closing track. as we had seen at the avalanche instore earlier, a solo KC performance is folky and homey, and not far off from his album sounds. yet it was a calculated move, not giving away a smidgen of what the full band would unleash. anderson has been performing live with the same musicians for a while now - the pictish trail on guitar, uncle beesly on bass, and onthefly hitting the sticks - and their performance in edinburgh showed them to be not merely a touring band for anderson, but fully integrated members of king creosote, fleshing out its sound in ways anderson could never have accomplished alone.

with 34 releases under his belt, i fully expected not to know a single song king creosote played. however, they performed mostly bombshell tunes, anderson having played older fan favorites earlier in the evening at avalanche. but the crowd went wildest for songs from kc rules ok and rocket d.i.y., king creosote's previous two releases, like the boisterous "not one bit ashamed," the first full-band song KC performed, or its follow-up, "twin tub twin," which got some of the loudest applause of the night. but even cherished tunes became fresh in the able hands of the pictish trail. a fellow fence-r, the pictish trail's work has yet to cause a stir outside the fence community, but i'd wager that a lot more people will be paying attention after his guitar histrionics at queen's hall. whaling on his axe with a fury and brutality that would normally seem alien in an ostensibly folk gig (and that was obviously frightening to some of the more docile crowd members), the pictish trail nearly singlehandedly made saturday's show as good as it was. his distortion solos were as welcome as they were unexpected, but he was not the only dark horse onstage. uncle beesly, the bassist, was no mean talent either. not content to merely add depth to the KC sound, beesly produced intricate, compelling, and complementary countermelodic bass lines, adding to king creosote's live dynamism. i suppose it remains to be seen whether these changes are just live extras, or whether anderson is ready to shirk the "folk" classification that hangs to the fence master.

the set was exciting, due in a large part to the musical antics of the pictish trail and uncle beesly, but thanks mostly to kenny anderson. he joked about the pictish trail's testicles and what the durness town slogan ("don't go there") really means (it involves sheep), and had the crowd in the palm of his hand. changing from acoustic guitar to accordion, he cracked that "a real gentleman can play the accordion, but chooses not to," mere moments before launching into an epic version of "favourite girl." expected highlights were the single "you've no clue do you," "bombshell," and "at the w.a.l.," all from bombshell, but what clinched the show were the encores. yes, there were two of them. for the first, anderson once again came onstage alone, performing "admiral" to a hushed crowd and then "678" with the whole band to a giddy crowd. when they had departed, some time still left before the curfew, we waited with our fingers crossed and hoping hearts. but no one was expecting "the happy song," yet there is nothing else that KC could have played that would have been as good. tossing aside his moody troubadour guise for the evening, king creosote played what they themselves call "the best show of the tour by a million miles." all i can say is, i'm glad i was there to see it.

read the pictish trail's bandstand report for his perspective, along with a full setlist for both the instore and queen's hall sets.

emma pollock - "acid test." buy watch the fireworks from 4AD.

king creosote - "not one bit ashamed." support the fence collective.

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