A quite different taste from Chocolate Cake
The Palladium, June 20
This was not chamber pop. This was not going gently into the night on a wash of keyboards or cello. It had a vigour that was fired with urgency, as if David Bridie, most recently known for My Friend The Chocolate Cake, had been storing this for too long and needed to release.
And to an extent that is true. The new album, Act of Free Choice, from which all but two songs this night were drawn, is rhythm-based, layered and exploratory. It takes Bridie's traditional languid melodies and darkens them with bubbling undertows, scattered beats and overlaid sounds evoking emptiness, harshness and some eerie beauty.
But while the rhythms on disc are partially submerged, textural rather than textual, live Bridie and band let them loose. There were times when the music was a series of rolling thunder blows interspersed with lightning strikes - not violent but forceful - and others when the energy flow rippled out in waves. In short, the influence of Massive Attack and the ghost of Not Drowning, Waving became starker and welcomed.
Salt became the dirt-hued dance it threatens to on disc with an insistent pulse. Float took this even further, coming at you in legions, in strength, and yet finding a balance between the drive of the rhythm and the glide of the vocals. And topping them all was Act of Free Choice, which dived headfirst into the big beat/techno basement that the loops and live drums combination created and then slowly pulled itself up to a climactic thunderclap. It was visceral and exciting.
This front-foot approach only really failed with The Koran, The Ghan and a Yarn where delicacies, such as the vocals and a filigreed guitar line that works like a gentle chime, couldn't compete with the rhythmic base, and was overwhelmed rather than pushed to explore anew. Amidst this broad, large-canvas attack, and a venue not conducive to the variations he was attempting, Bridie did paint with a finer brush at times. Not Drowning, Waving's Dare Not Say a Word had its darkness implied rather than expressed and one of the night's highlights was Deserters, which retained its plain passion.
For those expecting the Chocolate Cake Bridie, this version will come as a shock, but not necessarily an unfortunate one. He is charged with life and energy, and it's catching.
Reviewed by BERNARD ZUEL