Review of Allo Darlin’ at the Star and Shadow Cinema, 5th September 2012
On route to their gig in Newcastle on Wednesday, indie-pop outfit Allo Darlin’ tweeted “Tonight we play the wonderful Star & Shadow cinema…Can’t wait to play there again!” When they arrived they even took a picture and posted it on Facebook. In the cute little world of indie pop, you probably couldn’t imagine a better venue in which to plug your latest album to your adoring fans. The quaint little cinema at the top of Stepney Bank with its purple, star covered exterior and intimate and somewhat ramshackle bar area was indeed brimming with enthusiastic pop-clubbers at 8:00pm, eagerly anticipating the arrival, on-stage, of one of the leading lights of the post C86 movement.
Led by the endearing and beautiful Australian Elizabeth Morris, Allo Darlin’ have come on leaps and bounds since the release of their debut (self titled) album in 2010. This is evidenced in the fact that NME, Pitchfork and even Rolling Stone have listed their latest album Europe, released in May, as being one of 2012’s highlights thus far. Rolling Stone even included in its ‘top 40’ mid-year report alongside Jack White, Springsteen and Leonard Cohen. That is quite an achievement for a band that only formed in late 2009 on the back of Elizabeth’s burgeoning reputation as a London solo artist.
Before we got to hear the eloquent, well crafted repertoire of pop songs from Allo Darlin’ it was first over to some local talent – support acts The Agency and Pale Man Made. The Agency and their singer and chief songwriter Steven K. Driver deliver an emotional performance of intense, melodic folk tales that bear similarities to the back catalogues’ of Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen; all taken from their album ‘For the Brave and Troubled’, released in April this year. Cracking stuff. Next up was Pale Man Made whose latest album ‘Red Box Secrets’ is a treasure trove of 80/90s shoegaze indie which doesn’t lose any of its charm when delivered live and loud. Also, if you ever want to witness the fine art of bass ‘picking’ look no further that PMM’s Karen Foster, who has mastered the technique. Oober cool.
10pm seemed to come around very quickly, at which point Elizabeth and her band took to the stage. The best ‘twee’ bands (although this is a term that Elizabeth has rejected as ‘pejorative’) are brilliant story-tellers and Allo Darlin’ have got to be one of the best. Whether it’s the salty kiss at a fairground in Paris (Kiss Your Lips), a couple making chilli together (Heatbeat Chilli) or watching cartoons on NYE (Polaroid Song), you can’t help hanging onto every word, taking in the minute details described. On Europe, Elizabeth takes a retrospective and heart warming look at her time travelling and fondly remembers friends and lovers back home in Queensland. Her thoughts are captured beautifully on Tallulah where she laments: “I’m wondering if I’ve already heard all the songs that’ll mean something…And I’m wondering if I’ve already met all the people that’ll mean something.”
Live, Allo Darlin’ are captivating to watch. With Elizabeth leading on Ukulele, a smile rarely leaves her face and everytime she catches your eye (which is quite easy when you’re near the front), you find yourself blushing because of the mischievous and playful look on her face. Bassist Bill Botting also looks like he’s had too much sugar or something, jumping around with his eyes closed and wearing a huge grin. He only stops to really concentrate when performing the awesome funk bass line at the end of My Heart Is A Drummer. The big sing-a-long moment on the night was during Kissed Your Lips when Elizabeth stopped to let the crowd join in on “”I’m a lot like you so please, Hello I’m here, I’m waiting, I think I’d be good for you and you could be good for me.” They finished on a cover of Glaswegian band The Just Joans’ ‘If You Don’t Pull, You’re Going Home On Your Own’ – Elizabeth admitting she confused it for ‘car pool’ when she first heard it!
The band left the stage but almost immediately (and expectedly) Elizabeth was back up on her own for a final rendition of ‘Tallulah’, looking visibly moved while singing the emotional lyrics. The crowd were silent.
A great night and I admit, I broke my own promise of ‘trying to save money by only having one drink’ when I went straight up to the merch store to buy a vinyl copy of Europe and had it signed by Elizabeth. She wrote “Hi Andy, thanks for coming, Indie Pop forever right?!”…. RIGHT!