Live Review: Cloud Boat at Manchester Soup Kitchen – 11th October 2014

By on Wednesday, 22nd October 2014 at 2:00 pm
 

Header photo by Mary Chang; other photos by Martin Sharman

Many moons ago, I had seriously entertained moving to Manchester. The common question from local friends: “why would you ever leave America for some place that rains all the time?” Over the years I’ve become friends with quite a few musicians from the place and even if it weren’t for all the people I know there, there is no denying that the city is the North’s main hub for music and bands. While I’ve visited several times now over the last 8 years, I’ve only ever seen shows at the Apollo (Morrissey; Fenech-Soler supporting), the Opera House (Morrissey), Bridgewater Hall (Morrissey), Gulliver’s (City Reign) and the Deaf Institute (Dutch Uncles with Fiction supporting; the Orielles; School of Language), and I still haven’t made much of a dent on the enormous list of venues whose doors I’m still yet to pass through. Really though, there have only been two venues left I’ve been really keen in visiting for gigs: Peter Hook’s FAC251 and the Soup Kitchen. I had the opportunity 2 Saturdays ago to finally see a show there and by one of my favourite electronic artists as of late.

Located on Spear Street in the ridiculously vibrant Northern Quarter, The Soup Kitchen is smack dab in the middle of all the action. Although it’s only been open for 2 short years, it has already become a meeting place for locals not only for their amazing food. As the name suggests, they do amazing soup (among others, Johnny Marr is a fan), as well as maintain a brilliant seasonal, entirely from scratch in-house menu. But as you can imagine from me spending the time writing up this feature, they play host to some pretty fab gigs too, most often put on by local promoter legends Now Wave.

Unfortunately due to circumstances beyond our control, Martin and I missed the two opening bands on this particular night, but thankfully we arrived just in time to catch Cloud Boat’s full set. As often happens at the madness that is SXSW, I missed both showcases by the London trio, but as it turns out when I had a word with them after this show at Soup Kitchen, coming out to Manchester to see them was probably for the best anyhow. (I also had a lovely chat in the wee hours of the morning with Tom, Sam and Andres in Liverpool the following night, and you can expect that interview feature with them in the coming days when I’ve finally come to from this jetlag.) I’ve blathered on long enough about the venue, let’s talk about the band and the show!

Cloud Boat released their second album for R&S imprint Apollo Records in July, so it made sense that ‘Model of You’ would be well-represented on this evening. ‘Carmine’, their opening track for the evening, was the perfect start of what was mostly incredibly atmospheric, gorgeously made music. The gentle sweetness of ‘Hideaway’ also made an early appearance in their set; from that point on, I was at a loss for words. These days I feel like I don’t come across enough vocalists that make me weak in the knees. Tom Clarke possesses a gift, an often ethereal voice that seems couldn’t have come from anywhere but the heavens, and I just don’t understand how the full package of Cloud Boat isn’t more famous and popular yet.

While I was disappointed that one of my favourites from ‘Model of You’, ‘Thoughts in Mine’, didn’t make the cut in Manchester, the performance of ‘Aurelia’ more than made up for the omission, with its upbeat tempo and Clarke’s repeated refrain of “wondering if I should dive in” making for sure one of the standout moments for the night. ‘Portrait of Eyes’, with its glitchy beats and haunting vocals, proved also imposing, with the lyrics, “the first page of my map is in colour / a scrapbook for all that I love / the second page of my map is all selfish desires / and looks like the work of a child”.

I may say it too often, but I don’t really care: I think some people get the massively incorrect impression when confronted with a band that has loads upon loads of electronic equipment and gadgetry onstage that it indicates a lack of heart and a lack of talent. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Us fans of any genre touched by electronics know that if anything, the true artists of this kind of music work that many times harder to prove that they’re the real deal and not reliant and are entirely unlike the manufactured pop stars of our generation. Many times, and also true of Cloud Boat as you will read in my interview with them, their musical backgrounds didn’t even start with electronics. So before you judge a band by their gear, I urge you to listen to their music with an open mind and an open heart.

Tunes from their debut ‘Book of Hours’ also made a welcome appearance. ‘Bastion’ was pure beauty in its sparseness, and being able to hear songs from both albums at the same gig shows you immediately how the band has progressed and evolved. The biggest shame of the evening was that they couldn’t have played longer; as it was a Saturday in Manchester, there was a dance night to follow after Cloud Boat’s set, which meant an early curfew. But I’m not going to complain too much. I’m really happy to have finally have seem Tom, Sam and Andres live and this show in this Northern town has whet my appetite for many future shows and hopefully many more releases from the London act. Wishing you every success, guys.

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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