Tuesday, 17 July 2018

GIG REVIEW: The Barr Brothers - The Glee Club, Birmingham. Monday 16th July 2018

The Barr Brothers are a band operating out of Montreal Canada that has caught the ear of those integral to scheduling artists for the Moseley Folk Festival and a variety of accompanying gigs. Therefore, with Birmingham on their horizon it was of no surprise to see them return to the city with the Glee Club providing the host venue this time. There has been a buzz about this band for quite a while so when a late window of opportunity presented itself some first-hand thoughts spawned into the mix.

Clearly fronted predominately by Brad on guitars/vocals and Andy bringing percussion more to the fore, the Barr siblings were in a fixated mood to transmit their style of alt-rock-beat infused music, which in turn abrades the outer edges of Americana. Aided by the perpetual tones of haunting pedal steel as far away from country twang as you could imagine, and a bassist adept at switching between the stand-up and electric versions, this was a full-on presentation extolling the virtues of amassing an abundance of nuances into a raft of landscape forming tunes.

For around the habitual hour and half slot, a scene of minimal chat and non-existent song introduction established early on and it was a case of quickly buying into the band’s insularity. Any vague knowledge of The Barr Brothers prior to the gig was likely to remain intact at the end, yet there was something intoxicating about submerging into a swirling atmosphere of technical and experimental virtuosity. The softly delivered vocals of Brad often joined in unison with a variety of harmony formats and this blended well with the regular vibes, while juxtaposing when the tempo shifted. Think the Milk Carton Kids meet Arcade Fire and you will be getting warmer.

An assembly around a separate illuminated single mic for a couple of acoustic tracks instilled an air of placidity and an edge of versatility to quell the fire with a touch of folk. The core quartet systematically tapped into the airs of English harpist Emma Gatrill to add a finesse touch. She, and guitarist Marcus Hamblett, opened the evening in the support slot, and crowned the eclectic nature when joining the band armed with trumpet and clarinet for a number in the closing stages. The floating vocals of Emma hovered in an inviting manner during her spot in the limelight, clearly appetising for those with the inclination to chase.

Post gig summation cornered on a view that an element of maneuvering was required to grasp the mantle of this gig. Thoughts of The Barr Brothers peaking from a personal standpoint in a festival setting dispersed when the first inkling towards when the set would end only emerged when they announced that this would be their final song. The preceding eighty minutes did constantly engage the mind in the conundrum activity of detecting the depth to this indisputable tech feast and the degree it penetrated the soul. There is an obvious attraction to deep-rooted musical aficionados. Also for folks who take a progressive viewpoint on where straight up rock music can deviate. It was a fascinating, insightful and respectful evening engaging with The Barr Brothers. Maybe a vessel to jump off post gig, nevertheless a worthwhile sidestep away from the norm.