The Beta Band / Gisli - Manchester Academy - 19.11.04

The chubby looking bloke on stage with his school tie and blazer is Gisli, an Icelandic oddball backed by an assortment of musicians. He may appear a little nervous and awkward, but he can sure make one hell of a racket. His album "How About That" are anthems for the disenchanted, imagine a European Beck with the vocals of E from the Eels complete with bizarre lyrics that pack a punch and you're halfway there. "The Day It All Went Wrong" has the self referential charm of a harder edged Belle And Sebastian while the slower, more reflective songs have a mawkish sentimentality. All is forgiven when the title track of his album is performed, which is made all the better for observation of the lyrics especially when he nonchalantly observes that a "a lot of heterosexuals like to suck cock". Coming from such an innocent looking chap, this comes across as charmingly eccentric rather than intentionally shocking.

I was rather shocked upon discovering that The Beta Band had announced they were to disband after this tour, especially as their latest album "Heroes To Zeros" had been their most successful to date. A Beta Band concert is usually a feast for the eyes with short home made films, but with none of the usual extras it's clear something is not right. For the first few songs the band are subdued but soon come into their own during the magnificent single "Squares". Ignoring please of of 'please don't split up' the band plod through a workmanlike set which lacks the passion and excitement we normally associate with these truculent Scots. The music is fine, but the delivery is half hearted with very little regard to the fans who have stood by them through thick and thin over the years. The most recent material from their "Heroes To Zeros" is performed with a lot more passion and sense of urgency especially on "Space" and "Assessment". Quipping "Are you going to come and see us at Butlins in 5 Years?". If they play like this the answer is no especially if they over indulge on a monstrous instrumental jam like they do tonight.

Nicholas Paul Godkin

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