Aidan Moffat and RM Hubbert - The Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

by Andy Brown Rating: Release Date:
Aidan Moffat and RM Hubbert - The Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
Aidan Moffat and RM Hubbert - The Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

It’s been surprisingly warm recently so, as Aidan Moffat puts it about halfway into tonight’s set, it’s “the perfect night to be in a dark room with sweaty middle-aged men”. Moffat’s lyrics may ruminate on life, death and the multiverse but he’s never lost his sense of humour.

Before Moffat and Hubbert take to the stage we’re eased into the night with a set from Edinburgh’s Siobhan Wilson. Wilson worked with Moffat and Hubbert on their new collaborative album Here Lies the Body but tonight will be performing songs from her recent solo LP, There Are No Saints.

Barefoot and brandishing a guitar, Wilson’s material has a clarity and emotional honesty that proves to be quietly captivating. Opener ‘Incarnation’ highlights her gentle, soulful tones as she sings “I don’t want to be a blackbird/ sitting alone/ on the top of your gravestone”.

A switch to the piano for the French sung ‘J’attendrai’ (‘I Will Wait’) is particularly magical, the melody evoking the romantic, dreamlike Paris of Amélie. An assured and gently hypnotic performance. Holding our attention like it’s the easiest thing in the world, the songs feel effortless and natural.

Aidan Moffat and RM Hubbert haven’t been on stage very long before Moffat tells us, “this is a song about death”. The audience laughs but we know he’s not lying. The songs that make up Here Lies the Body follow two characters through a tale of love, sorrow, sex, death and partying in Blackpool. Ken Loach realism meets Nick Cave by the seafront.

Hubbert’s sparse, acoustic guitar creates a suitably sombre yet intoxicating backdrop as Moffat adds hints of electronica. The duo is superbly supported by Siobhan Wilson (cello and vocals) and ex-Arab Strap drummer David Jeans. Everyone playing an integral part as the songs come to life around us.

Moffat is funny, warm and relaxed between songs; always ready with an expletive-filled anecdote or a bit of friendly banter to break the tension. Hubbert sits down to play guitar and jokes that he’s sorry if he ends up accidentally mooning half the audience. This is serious music but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun.

‘Cockcrow’ kicks us off, a dramatic and startling piece of music. Hubbert taps on his guitar between flourishes of flamenco as Moffat and Siobhan do the storytelling. It’s a beautiful yet undeniably dark duet describing the breakdown of a relationship, the band creating something mesmerising and deeply atmospheric from the very start.

We get a glimpse into the creative process when Moffat explains how ‘Party On’ came to be.  He sent the drums to Hubbert; an excitably infectious samba beat that sounds like it’s in the middle of a party. The decidedly more subdued guitar part offered by Hubbert, however, sounds like it’s decided to have a quiet night in. It’s a contrast that works brilliantly.

‘Everything Goes’ might very well be the night’s most breath-taking song while ‘Zoltar Speaks’ takes us on a melancholic stroll through the lights and noise of the arcades, complete with seaside sound effects. Moffat tells us, sincerely, how much he loves Blackpool. The seaside town providing the ideal setting for his songs.

While Arab Strap were the soundtrack to waking up drenched in your own sick the likes of ‘Quantum Theory Love Song’ find Moffat looking into the theory of the multiverse with starry-eyed wonder. Moffat has always been an incredible lyricist and tonight his words wrap around my thoughts like the pages of a good book.

After playing the album in its entirety the band leaves the stage. It takes a little longer for them to come back then you’d expect yet Moffat laughs when he tells us how they managed to accidentally lock themselves in the dressing room. Saved from a night sleeping in the dressing room at the Brudenell, the band treats us to a frankly beautiful cover of Yazoo’s ‘Only You’.

Moffat forgot a line when they did it earlier so insists on treating us to an even better rendition of ‘Everything Goes’. It’s even more heart-breaking a second time around, “and you love the dawn chorus/you love blue skies above/ but I’m all but nocturnal/ I’m a vampire of love/ and I suck all the fun from you”.

They play us the first song they wrote together, the lilting folk/spoken word ‘Car Song’, before drifting off into the night. It’s been a great night but, inevitably, everything goes.

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