Tender Prey – the artist formerly known as Le B – cuts quite the figure onstage. She looks every inch the rock chick in her long black dress and leather boots, and she plays her electric guitar with all the clumsy glee of someone who’s excited just to be rocking out in front of an audience. But her wide-eyed power chords are tempered by a more mature and thoughtful side; songs like ‘Good Wife’ display a Jansch-esque ear for a good folky tune, and her lyrical talent is evident throughout. Closing cut ‘Velvetine’ is a pretty good summation of Tender Prey’s sound: quiet and poetic verse, loud and distorted chorus (somewhat reminsicent of Jefferson Airplane), and the coda, during which she breaks loose with a fantastically unhinged ‘woo-hoo!’
RM Hubbert, acoustic guitar virtuoso, is an altogether calmer proposition. He plays wonderful, finger-picked compositions, most of which are lyric-free. I promised myself I wouldn’t compare him to Mogwai – instrumental music from Glasgow, it’s a cheap comparison – so instead I’ll say that his guitar playing sounds a fair bit like Josh T. Pearson’s and that, given Hubbert’s between-song tales of depression and death, it’s probably fair to suggest that the music comes from a similarly dark place. It’s difficult to overstate how good he is at playing guitar, and when he does eventually do a bit of singing (on tearjerking Scottish folk song ‘The False Bride’) his voice proves to be pretty powerful too.
Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat have put together an interesting touring band for their live shows. You’ve got Wells on keyboard and Moffat on the mic, although Moffat – in lieu of a drummer – has also taken responsibility for a couple of drums and cymbals. Once you factor in the trumpeter and the double bassist you’ve got yourself a pretty neat little jazz quartet, and the four of them do a beautiful job of bringing Everything’s Getting Older to the live stage. It’s always nice to see a band doing something other than playing carbon copies of their studio recordings, and each song brings something new to the table: ‘A Short Song to the Moon’ is elongated with a wonderfully bouncy trumpet solo, while the absolutely filthy ‘Glasgow Jubilee’ sounds very steamy indeed.
Moffat’s near-spoken tales of growing up have the audience hanging on his every word, and the cool, laid-back music behind him is the perfect antidote to an unseasonably hot March day in Cardiff. It’s a bit like how Jack Kerouac used to read his short stories aloud while Steve Allen tinkled on the piano, although the piano lines were never this direct and arresting, and Kerouac never had this warm Scottish accent, an accent which renders even Moffat’s most hedonistic vignettes instantly relatable. JDE