Live review: White Denim / Syd Arthur (ABC Glasgow)
Unapologetic prog on the first night of White Denim tour
This was a retrofest of unapologetic proportions – two bands from opposite sides of the Atlantic digging (up) their respective musical pasts with great spirit, vibrancy and a refreshing lack of contrivance.
First up, Syd Arthur, named after late lysergic legends Syd Barrett and Arthur Lee, and hailing from Canterbury, once the fragrant flowerbed of English experimental and pastoral psychedelia. This four-piece – featuring the Magill brothers, Liam, Joel and Josh, plus Kate Bush's nephew Raven on keyboards and guitar – don't fear the prog, but also judiciously weave in elements of jazz, folk, psych and a more straightforward indie rock streak to create a warm, wafting soulful and accessible sound to snuggle up with until next year's summer festivals.
Headliners White Denim look more like a University Challenge team than a band. But though they may be nerdy, they are not noodly, being more about the rhythm than the riff.
There is a great likeability to this Austin outfit whose barefaced mining of rock heritage felt very natural. Their touchstones are mostly late 60s garage and blues rock – think the funkier acts on the Woodstock bill. At various points in the set, they appeared to be channelling the playfulness of The Grateful Dead, the groove of Sly Stone, the Latin freakout of Santana, the heavy soul of Cream and, thanks to frontman James Petralli's impeccable falsetto, the mellow southern soul vibe of Al Green on 'Take it Easy (Ever After Lasting Love)'.
Their show was mercifully free of showboating solos but, despite the sonic variety on display, still benefited from an injection of energy which came towards the end of the gig with a controlled outburst of nosebleed boogie and a distinctly proggy workout of an encore.
Seen at ABC Glasgow, Wed 5 Oct.