Gig Review: Moulettes & The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Rescue Rooms, Nottingham

Truth be told, it was the Moulettes that piqued my interest in this gig, at the Rescue Rooms in Nottingham last night. We saw them supporting the Levellers a month or two ago and couldn’t help but be impressed by their infectious variety of modern folk/indie/pop music.

Last night’s show got off to a slightly irksome start after being quite heavily delayed, but despite the not-particularly jam-packed state of the Rescue Rooms the Moulettes did a great job of winning over a restless crowd that clearly didn’t quite know what to expect when cello, double bass and autoharp made an appearance on stage. The second track of an all too short half hour set, the gloriously haunting blend of voices that is ‘Songbird’, made the non-initiated sit up and take notice of the sheer talent on stage, and by the time violinist Georgina Leach and cellist Hannah Miller launched into a thumpingly spirited rendition of strings-only tune ‘Assault’ the crowd was nicely warmed up and appropriately appreciative.

A storming performance of macabre tale, ‘Bloodshed in the Woodshed’, was followed by the wonderfully varied ‘Requiem’ to draw a fabulously exuberant set to a regrettably early but triumphant close.

The enthusiasm of all the Moulettes for what they do is palpable – it’s clear for every moment they’re on stage that every one of them loves what they do (Bassoon and autoharp guru Ruth Skipper in particular flashes out a ridiculously engaging smile from time to time). But don’t let the ‘folky’ part of the musical description fool you into thinking that their stock in trade are quaint and simple ditties – the tracks are a complex blend of instruments, lyrics, voices and tempos. More than once, I saw folk at the front of the crowd clapping in time only for the tune to suddenly wrongfoot them by whirling and dancing off in a different direction and speed. The whole sense is one of fun – for both band and audience, if you keep an open ear and flow along with the music.

As with any skilled musicians, the Moulettes really come alive on stage, when the sheer power of their stunning voices and command over their instruments really shines – but if ‘complex, fun, slightly macabre at times, folky/indieish/generally a bit quirky’ sounds like it’s up your musical alley and current single, Uca’s Dance, embedded in this post appeals, I strongly recommend checking out their two albums, Moulettes and The Bear’s Revenge (yes, they’re on iTunes as well).

As for Arthur Brown, well, to be perfectly honest, neither me nor my partner knew quite what to expect beyond a certain idiosyncracy and most likely a rendition of the inevitable ‘Fire’.

Turns out, he can’t half belt out a tune! Gliding onstage in a long velvet cape (which turned out to be covering at least 3 outfit changes – he must have been sweltering for the first few tracks!) and sporting a mask, with his band similarly be-masked, we kind of knew we were in for something a bit quirky. And the 70 year old from Whitby proved he knew a thing or two about showmanship.

Not entirely surprisingly, the set was a fair bit psychedelic in places, but the musical and vocal range on show was as winning as the charismatic and decidedly spry Mr Brown himself – none of the weakness in his voice that affects the Maccas of this world as they age! His introduction to Fire was suitably wry and self-deprecating – he must’ve been singing it on an alarmingly regular basis for decades – but he and the band delivered a stormer as the inevitable climax to the gig. It’s a crazy world indeed, but a pretty remarkable one at that – and since I was one of the ‘I know ‘Fire’ but not sure what else he’s done’ crowd that was only really there for the Moulettes I was completely won over by the tall one in facepaint.

The god of hellfire himself:

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