Arcane Roots – The Shipping Forecast
The Shipping Forecast is a delightful little venue; a trendy bar upstairs with gigs held downstairs in the basement, it's all low ceilings, subdued lighting and exposed brickwork. The stage is the size of your average walk in wardrobe and raised only a couple of inches off the floor. All in all it makes for a quirky and intimate setting.
First onto the step – sorry, stage - are local Liverpool band The Midnight Club. A young band just starting out they show some promise with solid guitars and drumming that carries the whole performance and makes up for the at time dubious vocals. I’ve never been to The Shipping Forecast before and to be honest at this point I was a little concerned that the venue might have some sound issues, mainly due to the sometimes sketchy vocals. My fears were soon laid to rest when ME stepped up to the plate.
ME are a delightful quartet hailing from the sunny climes of Australia, and they’re breathtaking, in a gape-open-mouthed at the sheer spectacularness of their performance way. They’re utterly unique, singer Luke Ferris has a falsetto to challenge Freddie Mercury and he employs it a lot, and when he drops it down an octave or ten his voice is rich and warm. The wonder doesn’t just stop there: riffage that should have Frusciante tossing in his sleep at night, thundering drums and bass lines that snake through the tracks all combine in perfection. They call to mind The Mars Volta, and they’re what Mika would have been if he’d possessed bollocks and produced credible music instead of pop slush. Their sound is big and there's a definite hint of rock opera in there, and it's a good thing, a very good thing.
Another thing in stark evidence is that this band have a ton of touring experience. They’re masters of the live environment, it's literally impossible to not be riveted by the action on stage. Ferris demands eye contact with his audience and drags them perceptibly closer to the stage with every glance. Set closer 'Westward Backwards' is exceptional, it sounds HUGE and theatrical gestures ensure it looks huge too. When Ferris takes up the role of bass towards the end of the track to free Godde to join Rogers on the drums the energy of the song goes through the roof. I could watch this band and disappear into those delectable vocals all night long.
Arcane Roots don't disappoint either. This tour is providing the band's first chance to roadtest new material for their as yet unrecorded album, and they deliver a set that incorporates the new alongside the old. From the second they take the stage they don't put a foot wrong, Impeccable musicianship and burning intensity pervade the set. If I had just one word to describe their performance it would undoubtedly be Epic.
Midway through the set Groves insists it necessary for the good of the next song, a new one, to change his guitar strings.,What could easily be a very uncomfortable situation for both band and audience turns into a warm and charming interlude: the band chat animatedly with the crowd whilst the repairs are undertaken. We discuss their van (apparently the handbrake is good, but not great) plans for the upcoming album, and we get an introduction to their tech. The band are clearly enjoying the impromptu chinwag and it’s only after much cajoling from drummer Daryl Atkins that Groves can be convinced to resume the set. Strings changed, Groves explains that they’ve written the next song wanting it to be instantly likeable, and what follows certainly achieves that aim, despite never having heard it before by the second chorus the crowd is singing along.
Renditions of 'You Are', 'Million Dollar Que$tion' and 'Habibty' are all delivered to the delight of the crowd. Arcane Roots are one band that really do live up to every bit of promise their recordings show. The energy on stage is phenomenal with Groves bouncing around the stage, and off it, in wild abandon. New song 'Pairs & Threes' is introduced by Groves with the explanation “You can bang your head to this one” and you can indeed. It opens with a primal guttural scream from Burton and instantly batters you around the head with heavy guitars and pounding drums. The set finishes with 'Long & Low', Groves infusing every word with raw emotion, incorporating an acapella section that is heartrendingly breathtaking. I’m left wishing they would play for another hour. This is a band you definitely need to see live, for their enchanting performances will ensure you keep going back again and again.