In the three decades since “Nashville’s most f*cked-up country band” were formed, the Kurt Wagner-led collective have evolved far beyond their traditional country roots to become one of the most unique and consistent bands around. Whereas past albums have incorporated a variety of styles including soul, chamber pop, R&B, jazz and lounge music, their 12th and most recent effort ‘FLOTUS’ took even some of their biggest fans by surprise, blending together electronica and krautrock with processed vocals which Wagner was inspired to use after attending a performance by the experimental hip hop duo Shabazz Palaces.
Tours in support of previous albums have often featured a rotating cast of characters, sometimes containing up to a dozen musicians, with their cathartic live performances regularly earning rave reviews from critics and fans alike. On their most recent tour in support of ‘FLOTUS’ however, their numbers have been greatly reduced. After appearing at London’s Roundhouse as a quartet earlier in the year, Lambchop have returned to the UK as a trio, this time for an extended twelve date tour with support from the Berlin-born singer-songwriter Roxanne de Bastion.
Accompanied by two men who have been with the band since the turn of the century, the nimble fingered Matt Swanson on bass and the comedic Tony Crow on grand-ish sized piano, the trademark Draplin cap sporting Wagner provided guitar, electronics and vocals (both clean and processed). It was a very understated but gorgeous performance which saw several songs reinterpreted in a more minimalist style to fit with the much reduced line-up.
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Unsurprisingly, the focus was on their latest album, opening with three songs from ‘FLOTUS’, while also closing with three more. Lead single ‘The Hustle’ was transformed from an 18-minute electronic experimentation into a much shorter version. While other highlights to feature from FLOTUS included a pre-encore trio of ‘JFK’, ‘Directions to the Can’ and ‘Harbor County’. Although there was no sign of fan favourites such as ‘Up With People’ and ‘Your Fucking Sunny Day’, the set still brought together both new and older material going as far back as ‘Garf’ from 1996’s ‘How I Quit Smoking’.
It was difficult not to be a little distracted by the air conditioning blasting out during quieter moments such as ‘2B2’ from 2012’s ‘Mr. M.’ It even prompted a request from audience members for the volume to be turned up a touch, to which Wagner responded by fiddling a few of the dials on the stage backdrop. The volume remained the same but it got a good laugh, and overall it took very little away from what was a superb performance, ehivh closed with a re-working of ‘When You Were Mine’ by Prince with a little help from support act Roxanne de Bastion.
The Decline of Country and Western Civilization
Directions to the Can
When You Were Mine (Prince Cover)