Under scrutiny of the past hundred-or-so gigs I have been in attendance of, Tunng’s set at the newly renamed ‘Lantern’ (previously Colston Hall 2) this past Friday night was by far one of the most enjoyable.
It was not a sweaty, brawlish mass of confrontational teenage adolescence (as you’d probably expect), nor was it a sombre affair of grim faced, static consideration. Tunng in a sense have found the healthy middle ground between the two, and perhaps this is why there was such an array of different people in audience, of all ages and possible backgrounds. Their music certainly has this universal appeal, without substituting it for new and exciting developments in sound; an array of DIY instruments towards the back of the stage, such a large amount of hanging door keys used as a makeshift chime, is testament towards.
Support came in the form of Copenhagen art rockers Pinkunoizu. Their subversive brand of driven, Krautrock influenced psychedelia makes them one to watch out for in future. Armed with a sound differing drastically from their recorded persona, tracks such as ‘Pyromancer’ or ‘The Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ become almost unrecognisable, if it wasn’t for a few giveaway motifs; drummer Jaleh Negari’s trademark ‘smoke on the water’ yowl during ‘Moped’ setting off familiar alarm bells and demanding attention. Needless to say, this didn’t detract from the band in any way, shape or form. In fact, it is quite possible they sounded better live than on record; with a larger emphasis on building each track to its unruly, tumultuous finale, it was possible to see the structure of each track in its bare bones, and how vitally skilful each member was in its performance; nothing left to waste. You can imagine each track like the trickling grain of sand through an hourglass, gathering slowly over time into its complete mass.
As the Lantern filled up further still, anticipation in the room was palpable. You’d be hard pressed not to have overheard some comment regarding lyrics, the AV and band set up, or just plainly anything Tunng related, in the pause after Pinkunoizu.
When Tunng took to the stage, some time around 9pm, they met with an overwhelmingly thunderous applause from fans, old and young alike. Rather appropriately they opened the set with the opening track from latest album ‘Turbines’; melodious, emotionally aware lyricism is certainly where the band excels, and ‘Once’ is a perfect example of this in action. It represents a maturer, more reflective Tunng, but one which hopes to continue doing what they do best. A particularly prominent presence throughout the song was drummer Simon Glenister, whose sharp staccato beats gave the song an oddly danceable rhythm.
‘Once’ was followed up by another couple of ‘Turbines’ selections, ‘So Far From Here’ and ‘The Village’, both delivered in the same exceptionally swayable demeanour. As early as these few opening songs, you could really get a sense of how talented and coordinated the band was, but also how much they enjoyed what they were doing, and this positive energy was well received by the audience.
This prepped the audience well for ‘The Roadside’, an absolute gem from 2010’s ‘And Then We Saw Land’, and certainly one of the highlights of their set. It’s one of those oddly juxtaposed songs, with a poppy, infectious rhythm which would contrast to the unsettling lyrics, if it wasn’t for the simply reassuring tone of its deliverance; ‘you should stop worrying’. At times, it brought comparisons to The Decemberists to mind, perhaps emphasised by Mike Lindsay’s stationary marching throughout. The band, after teasingly delving into their back catalogue, then returned to another few tracks from ‘Turbines’; this time ‘By This’, ‘Bloodlines’ and ‘Embers’ respectively.
‘Jenny Again’, performed just after the mid-set point, was a lovely return for the long time Tunng fans. Perhaps one of the band’s more well-known songs, it’s a sombre tale of love, betrayal, and murder, and it serves as a welcome reminder to the progression Tunng have made over the years. Oftentimes when bands utilise samples in live performances, they tend to fall flat miserably, but owing either to an excellent tech set up, or the band’s own sheer attention to detail, the track went about flawlessly.
The penultimate song of the set could very well have been the highlight of the night, ‘By Dusk They Were in the City’. Foot stomping, hair tossing, movement everywhere, and the band’s enjoyment was plainly visible to see through an exchange of smiles, secretive stage whispers and clapping, encouraging audience participation to let loose. A five minute track on record seemed to last an inordinate amount of time, sprawling on endlessly in the best possible way.
As respects with given from band to crowd, and vice versa, Tunng drew their set to a close with ‘Hustle’; admittedly not the most provocative number, but a perfect way to round things off nonetheless. ‘Woodcat’ and ‘Bullets’ were played respectively as an apparently unscheduled encore against the (usually) tightly pressed curfew.
I am certain no-one left The Lantern that night unsatisfied. Whatever labels that are applied to them, Tunng are certainly no longer the ‘folktronica’ poster child of old; the circular band which was so ruthlessly forced into a square section; indeed, they are so much more. Successfully shedding all chains of that unwelcome bondage, owing to a refinement in sound and a loyal, ever-growing community of fans, they have produced some of the finest sounds of the last decade. And if this performance was anything to go by, I get the impression there is a lot left to see from the Soho sextet yet, experimenting far into the beyond…
Check out ‘So Far From Here’ below: