Thursday, 12 July 2007

Bella Union 10th Anniversary Party

To celebrate an incredible ten years, Bella Union packed out the Southbank's Royal Festival Hall for two nights of music and majesty.

Although a stunning venue, the Royal Festival Hall's wonky acoustics do cause a sense of detachment for some fans. Nonetheless, most of the acts managed to triumph against the subdued ambience. On the first night, the Baltimore duo, Beach House, were a delightful opening act, while Scottish quintet, My Latest Novel played an impressive set of melodic indie-folk, fuelled by violin, xylophone and vocal harmonies.

Mercury-nominated Fionn Regan was totally arresting. After unplugging his acoustic and making his way to the very edge of the stage, he invited those seated in the first few rows to sing along with him during Be Good Or Be Gone. Substitute headliners, The Howling Bells, led by Juanita Stein's velvet voice, offered the mesmerising gothic country of Setting Sun and Broken Bones, while Tom Smith of Editors provided vocals for their beautiful version of Nick Cave's Where The Wild Roses Grow.

The enforced cancellation of Explosions In The Sky, made the second night the far more tantalising and Stephanie Dosen's wonderful voice drifts through the venue before The Kissaway Trail (mistakenly introduced by Paul Morley as The Faraway Trail) gave us their superior indie psych-pop. The Danish five-piece were the first band on either night to approach their performance with any bluster or bombast, and the change of pace is welcome.

It was the event headliners, Midlake, who stole not just the show, but the entire celebration. Tim Smith's vocals were crisp and lucid (despite a lyrical lapse during Roscoe); the piano and guitars were lush; and the varied tempos demonstrated the complex orchestration and accomplished musicianship that made The Trials Of Van Occupanther one of 2006's greatest albums. New song, The Pills Won't Help You Now, written for the Chemical Brothers, should carve out an even bigger fanbase for the band. Guest spots from Romeo of The Magic Numbers, Stephanie Dosen, label founder Simon Raymonde and Paul Weller added little to the overall sound, but their collective presence certainly adds to the celebratory nature of the event.

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