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Gig Review

James Yorkston / Future of the Left
Tramlines Festival, Sheffield

Article written by Matt H - Jul 21, 2012

James Yorkston
Don’t you wish someone would put on a free festival in your home town and book your two stone-cold favourite artists of the moment to play on the first decently warm evening of the summer? Cheers Tramlines!

It’s been nearly 8 years since I’ve seen James Yorkston, during which time his recorded output has gone from strength to strength – he just doesn’t come round these parts too often. It really shouldn’t come across as a surprise that he’s got so much better at the live thing in that time, but you forget other people move on when you’re not watching them…. Not that he was any slouch before, but facing down an early evening outdoor crowd of tiring toddlers and many non-acolytes (albeit largely appreciative ones) with no more than a guitar might’ve been a struggle. Here though the contrast with the many pretty decent but less accomplished bands you’ve spent the day with is stark. The odd bout of amnesia in respect of the words of Queen of Spain notwithstanding, he’s in command from the start. Skilful on the guitar, building beguiling repetitive rhythm as well as melodies, he’s also more confident in his voice – taking on an a cappella Tortoise Regrets Hare to fine effect. The set ranges across the past decade of superbly reflective, idiosyncratically straightforward songwriting, with the couple of songs from the new album superbly enticing – 13 August can’t come soon enough. Picking out highlights is impossible, though the success of Woozy With Cider, a spoken word krautfolk epic that so really ought not to work live, had to be amongst them.

Future of the Left
One of the joys of Tramlines is the way it’s spread across town. And it was all too apposite to be making the 25 minute walk from the leafy park , trendy bars and beardy parents through to the industrial units, office blocks and stumbling, dilated teens. Cos that takes you right into the world of Future of the Left. They’re another lot who have just kept on getting better and better. The excellent new album has had such extensive play round these parts it’s been easy to forget they’ve got any back catalogue, let alone such a good one. The (relatively) new line up gives it a facelift too. The rhythms roll rather than slam and more of the light and shade that is prevalent in the records comes through. It’s still a full-on and noisy experience though, as evinced by the rapid disappearance of a fair chunk of those who’d hung around since the band before. They were quickly replaced by hardier souls though and it felt like a proper gig rather than the slightly hollow sense you can get at even the best festival performance. For all that some of the old stuff (including a couple of mclusky standards) was great and loved, it’s the new songs that stand out, from the brutal power pop of Sheena is a T-shirt Salesman and I Am The Least of Your Problems to the wry stabbing synths of Failed Olympic Bid there’s a wit and sureness to the songs which just lifts the place up. And as for the brutal, stabbing satire of Robocop 4: Fuck Off Robocop, well I still think there’s no higher praise than that it lives up to the quality of its title.

Be it in the mud amongst the trees or on the flagstones in the shadow of John Lewis, a lot of different people had a bloody good time tonight. This one most of all.


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