Live review: Shearwater @ Rough Trade East, September 18th 2008

The remit for Shearwater’s live appearance at Rough Trade East was simple: play the new album, “Rook” in its entirety, in order.  Unusually for an album exposition, this would take less than 40 minutes.  And what splendid minutes they were.

In comparison with some of their more recent gigs (including the four dates in July which saw them open for Coldplay,  no less) this tiny stage and intimate venue are ideally suited to the gorgeously intricate sound Shearwater can’t help but make.  Perhaps not ‘ideally’, though, as this troop of multi-instrumentalists were constantly swapping around on the congested stage between songs with barely any room to spare.

A beat before beginning brilliantly named drummer Thor Harris halted proceedings because he was yet to ‘water’ a key instrument, so the crowd waited as he rushed to the Rough Trade water fountain and returned with a plastic cup with which to anoint a mysterious metal orb covered in points, which he later played with a bow to achieve a wondrously eerie sound.

Among the other instruments in this highly accomplished band’s repertoire is a homemade hammer dulcimer which Thor played strung over his shoulders with orange twine.  The undoubted high point of the gig was the soaring build up to ‘Century Eyes’, followed stuntingly by a heart-warmingly amiable admission of error before they broke into the song proper.

During this short gig in East London Shearwater managed to capture the poise, grandeur and dignity of this truly awesome album, and it is with a heavy heart that I tell you that they will not return to our shores until November, when they play Komedia in Brighton (see listings).  These seabirds come highly recommended.

Words: Helen True