Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat - Brudenell Social Club Leeds, UK - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat - Brudenell Social Club Leeds, UK

by Andy Brown Rating:10 Release Date:2011-12-17

Aidan Moffat has been a unique, uncompromising, and charismatic voice in music for a long time. Moffat’s talents have developed with age, his lyric sheet remains unflinchingly honest but the focus has gradually shifted with each record. From Arab Strap's dark, early hours tales of drunken sex and troubled romance all the way to the philosophical ruminations on love and mortality heard on his first collaborative LP with Bill Wells, Everything’s Getting Older.

Moffat’s work with Wells has made for some rather special results and their latest album together, The Most Important Place in the World, further cements this post-Arab Strap partnership. The double-bass propped up on the stage at the Brudenell Social Club gives us a tantalising glimpse into the coming entertainment, and a reminder of how different this latest collaboration is from Moffat’s former band.

First there’s a set from Glaswegian guitarist Stevie Jones, playing as part of Scottish folk/jazz collective, Sound of Yell. Jones is clearly an impressive guitarist as he effortlessly guides us through a series of gentle, finger-picked acoustic laments. It’s a sound that only gets better as fellow Sound of Yell musician Aby Vulliamy takes to the stage to add weeping violin and charming, wordless harmonies to the mix.

The full band consists of a revolving door of several musicians (including members of Teenage Fanclub and Belle & Sebastian), but tonight’s stripped-back approach feels like an ideally intimate introduction to their loose, free-roaming instrumentals. The highlight comes when Vulliamy trades her violin for a saw, creating an otherworldly wobble and a gig first for this regular Brudenell attendee.

Sipping on a beer, Aidan Moffat starts by telling us that he had a particularly late one last night so might not be as chatty as usual. As he jokes later on, he shares quite enough with the public through his songs. Moffat is casual and relaxed yet his performance is full of quietly passionate soul, delivering heartfelt and engaging lyrics in his familiar Falkirk brogue.

The set-up tonight is impressive with Moffat’s voice and Well’s piano/keyboard accompanied by trumpet, trombone, double bass, and violin. The sound is even more overtly jazz than the records and it’s a style that compliments Moffat’s storytelling perfectly. The Brudenell is set up with extra tables tonight, further adding to the jazz-club vibes and providing the ideal atmosphere to listen to these tenderly constructed odes to dark desires, old VHS tapes of long-gone passion, and the various pleasures and pitfalls of city living. 

The latest material finds Moffat and Wells delivering some of their most graceful compositions to date and it’s nigh-on-impossible not to be lulled into an intoxicated, blissful yet melancholic state by the likes of ‘The Tangle of Us’. Moffat has always tackled relationships with an admirable honesty; the characters are flawed but romantic, searching and undeniably human.

The songs cover the usual themes of love, sex and alcohol, while the trials of domesticity are also explored. Songs such as the disarmingly upbeat bossa-nova boogie of ‘Any Other Mirror’ work a treat, with Moffat adding drums to the bands swing as he sings: “And I might be a useless prick/ but I feel ugly, old and thick/ in any other mirror but you”. Moffat is clearly an old romantic at heart.

Tracks from their debut LP sound like stone-cold classics and cover an impressive emotional range. ‘Glasgow Jubilee’ slinks sleazily along, its guitar funk replaced by some brilliantly seductive jazz as Moffat delivers an exhilaratingly filthy tale of a “sweet young thing” and “a randy little laddie”. This is juxtaposed perfectly by the tender, post-funeral philosophising of ‘The Copper Top’, a sparse and truly stunning song.

The night almost finished, the band leaves the stage to enthusiastic applause, Moffat joking that it sounds as if we’re pleased to see them go. This leaves Wells and Moffat to perform simple, aching piano ballad ‘Far From You’. It’s a sound that seems to still the whole room and I realise I’ve pretty much hung on Moffat’s every word from the start of the set.

I talk to Moffat briefly at the merch stand and he tells me about the tour he did with Malcolm Middleton a few years back, comparing their car journeys across the country to Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s improv comedy series The Trip. By Moffat’s own admission, most of it would be unbroadcastable. Never mind, I’m pretty sure Moffat shared enough of himself with us tonight.

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