The Slow Show, Mancunian creators of romantic lo-fi rock, are known for having members of their audience in tears, or else stood in awestruck silence during their live sets. This was certainly what I witnessed on a Thursday night in a busy little room in Leeds. Their magic lies in the ability to master both delicacy and passionate fervour in their musicality and in forming lyrics which are both universal and heartbreakingly personal. Their beautiful songs are lifted to another level by soaring brass accompaniment, its strains at times mournful and at others filled with hope. But for me, the most compelling part is frontman Rob Goodwin’s achingly soulful baritone voice, startling when flowing forth from his slight frame, had so much depth I felt I could swim in those delicious, warm waves. Goodwin appears to leave a little blessing on everyone in the room as he sets his striking blue eyes on each of us, completely humble, repeatedly thanking the audience for “this beautiful night”. The band’s prolonged absence from the UK following their considerable European tour seemed to have left some doubts as to whether there was anyone still listening here. Those doubts will be surely put to rest after this tour; their reception was fantastic, the audience looked on with genuine affection, all smiles, like a crowd of old friends.
They play White Waters, their crystalline debut album of this year, almost in entirety. The whole set was wonderfully weaved together; in its stripped-back, mellow moments and those of electrifying energy- each song sounds immaculate. Particular highlights were ‘Dresden’ and the deeply moving ‘Brother’, written by Goodwin about his grandfather, who lost his brother to cancer when they were teenagers: “Let’s go back to football fields and backyard alleyways/ Before God let you down boy, and took your life away.” he sings. Though, the real peak is ‘Bloodlines’: with its punchy trumpet riff, it’s reminiscent of the excellent ‘Fake Empire’ by The National. It’s an exhilarating culmination to the set, one of those closers which can’t really be followed (though, of course, it is… by the inevitable encore. Sometimes these fine, sublime things should be left as they are.)
The comparison to The National is an obvious one, constantly regurgitated by music critics, but at times I do wonder whether the two are too similar. The band name is of course lifted from The National’s song ‘Slow Show’ from the album Boxer; perhaps they run the risk of seeming a little like tribute to their forebears. While their similar bloodlines are no bad thing, The Slow Show’s music is mesmerising and excellent in its own right, I look forward to seeing how they develop from here, perhaps pulling their sound into some new shapes and developing a distinct voice.
In any case, The Slows put on a show with true heart tonight. Faith in humanity restored, thanks guys.By Sophie Brear