Guillemots * * * * *
at The Birmingham Academy
Review by Terry Grimley
In an ideal world Guillemots would have been collecting a Brit Award as best live act this week, but they always knew they were just making up the numbers of nominees.
"We turned down the Brits to be with you," front-man Fyfe Dangerfield told his home-town audience during a 100-minute, high-energy set, ranging from melodic pop to jagged electronica and free-form improvisation, which demonstrated why they were well worth the nomination.
Following the Mercury nomination for their debut album Through the Windowpane, it raises the question of how big Guillemots might eventually become.
Having been the bemused subject of a major-label bidding war almost as soon as they started gigging early in 2005, they have had suspicions of hype to overcome. But they have built a loyal following around the UK, and increasingly abroad, the old-fashioned way, through relentless touring and direct engagement with fans.
In Trains to Brazil, which it has now become standard for audiences to sing along with the band, they have achieved an anthemic classic without it ever having quite been the hit that might have brought mass-audience recognition.
After a short European tour they start recording their second album next month, and here they played five songs likely to feature on it. The two latest, Big Dog and Standing on the Last Star, both have single potential, particularly the latter which is another song with sing-along appeal. Fyfe even rehearsed the audience on the chorus in advance, panto-style.
In both these songs Fyfe's voice seems to have discovered a new upper register. And finger-picked electric guitar was added to his already formidable range of keyboard and guitar sounds on a solo version of We're Here.
But this little jewel of a performance really needed a concert hall ambience, because at venues like the Academy any drop below normal volume is the cue for general audience chatter.