What was perhaps intended to be a warmup show might have accidentally become the jewel in the crown of this final handful of live shows for the third studio album from Bear’s Den. Before outings to larger venues in London and the continent, the last leg of the So that you might hear me tour began in Cambridge’s best live music venue, the Junction. The sold out 850-strong crowd were on their best and most affectionate behaviour.
“It’s great to be playing in Cambridge again”, lead singer Andrew Davie tells the audience. I bet he says that to all the cities. An unfortunate tale unfolds about their last show at a different venue here in 2012, when a sound technician let the band get through a significant portion of their first song before switching the house sound on.
Opening the set (house sound firmly switched on) with ‘Dew on the vine’ and ‘Broken parable’ from 2016’s Red Earth & Pouring Rain, the band weave their way through a whole gamut of their melancholy discography. Davie explains they’ve been rehearsing here for a couple of days, resurrecting old ideas, and the setlist proves it – there’s even an appearance from ‘Don’t let the sun steal you away’, a song we first heard a thousand moons ago from Davie’s pre-Bear’s Den band.
“This song is a bit of a bummer…even for us it’s sad, and we only do sad songs” Davie confesses as the sombre ‘Crow’ begins. I don’t know if I’ve seen a band have so much fun while playing such sad songs. They gather around one microphone for a pared down version of ‘Isaac’. The audience sing along with a reverent affection that means we can not only still hear Davie, we can also see him stir at the sound of us all singing his words back to him. ‘I’m gonna give all my love to you‘ we sing back toward the stage in the hushed tones of a lullaby, before a very different tone carries a rousing Happy Birthday in Davie’s direction and he blows the candles out on a cake while we hip hip hooray him, and listen to a story about childhood dreams and Trevor Sinclair.
‘Evangeline’ makes its live show debut, lifted by the presence of a small brass section, before the band ‘exit’ and return to play an encore of ‘Blankets of sorrow’ and ‘Above the clouds of Pompeii. The night ends with the band gathered around a single microphone again for ‘Agape’, and Davie gives the audience the final word of the set as our voices leave ‘I don’t wanna know who I am without you’ ringing around the walls.
Words and photo: Angeline Liles