Absent Kelly presents LUME @Surya

4 stars (out of 5)

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LUME TitleI’ll be honest with you, music journalists and photographers love to whinge to each other, and anyone else who’s willing to have their ears bent, about venues. We all love a moan about bar prices, surly service, bad sound, not enough light, too much light, red light, white light and so on and so on. While I was watching three bands playing at Surya on Friday November 13, all of this was brought into sharp focus by the events unfolding in Paris coming up on my phone every time I left the basement venue between bands. Initially, I didn’t want to write this review, but as the full horror became apparent later, it was obvious that the only way to react was to keep calm and carry on. I guess the best thing I can do is dedicate this to the memory of all the people who died at the Eagles of Death Metal gig and at other places in Paris on Friday.

The publicity for the gig featured four bands, but only three appeared on the night; a trio of trios, each with the same line-up of guitar, bass and drums, but each with a very different sound and dynamic.

First up were Chapels, an improbably young band that played with huge amounts of enthusiasm combined with a mixture of humour and diffidence. They had loads of good ideas that never seemed to quite mesh into a coherent set and tuning problems didn’t really help. If you’re looking for comparisons, then early Nirvana wouldn’t be too far wide of the mark (they got a few requests for “Smells like Teen Spirit”). The band looked like they were having a good time and it was well received, so it was a good start to the night.

Circus 66 moved things up a couple of gears with their funky power trio setup, harking back to the sixties/seventies feel of Cream and Taste with a more current twist of the funky Red Hot Chili Peppers spicing up the mix. Matt Pearce (guitar), Tom Parker (bass) and Ben Blackman (drums) all have good voices and manage to throw a bit of old-fashioned showmanship into their performance, making complex arrangements look ridiculously easy and apparently having a really good time before passing on the baton to the headliners.

LUME brought along a substantial and enthusiastic following and were obviously top of the bill material. I caught them earlier this year as the first band on the bill at The Garage and it was obvious that they wouldn’t be doing that for long. This time, they sounded like headliners right from the opening notes of “Budapest” (which opened and closed the set). Henry Mata, Alex Holmes and Nelson Taia make the most of the three-piece line-up and show that they’re all about musicianship; Henry only has one guitar effects pedal (a wah-wah which he used to play a fragment of “Voodoo Chile”) and Alex Holmes becomes a second guitar player at times, playing in unison with Henry’s lead lines. The songs are all strong and the band didn’t put a foot wrong, winning over the supporters of other bands on the bill as well, so I guess that’s another step up the ladder.