Live Review: Willkommen Collective @ The Union Chapel, 5th June 2009

The Union Chapel was bedecked with mildly disturbing papier mache animals, swirling waves, giant trees and sugar paper bunting in the shapes of autumn leaves for Willkommen’s coming out gig at the Union Chapel, where we were treated to the full range of the collective’s talents.

First up, Rowan Coupland enhanced the general state of wonder by eschewing his microphone and exploring the aisles of the chapel, followed by his choir of kindly friends. His attempts to instigate a sing-along were rather optimistic for an audience who’d barely sat down, but the points when his voice filled the beauteous arches of this building (which was made for choir-singing after all) were very special indeed.

Next came the 8-piece Shoreline, whose near-classical arrangements and captivating vocals transported the inhabitants of the union chapel onto an ethereal plane like no other.  The comfortable dynamic of this crowd of musicians was a marvel to behold.

Following Shoreline came Sweet Billy Pilgrim. This three-piece looked pretty meagre compared to their predecessors, and FFS were near fainting point so we nipped out for a pint and a burger.  We arrived back in time for Sons of Noel and Adrian, who were peddling their singular brand of prog-folk to magnificent effect in the now darkened, atmospherically lit venue.

Lastly were the Leisure Society who, due to some manner of hideous scheduling mistake, announced at the start of their set that they only had 15 minutes to play, so they graced us with a cover of Gary Newman’s ‘Cars’, their Ivor Novello-nominated single ‘The Last of the Melting Snow’. Then thanks to an extra five minutes granted by a venue boss, Nick and crew got a chance to play FFS-favourite ‘Save it For Someone Who Cares’, an album track that the frontman explained was written in the very pews in which we sat. The set ended with the really very lovely single ‘A Matter of Time’, with all the members of the Collective returning to the stage as a joyous ukelele orchestra to bid farewell to the chapel’s inhabitants. Kudos to the musicians who appeared in all three Willkommen bands. That’s dedication to the musical cause right there.

Much foot-stamping went on in the hope that the Leisure Society might play a bit more, but they were sadly forbidden to by the Union Chapel Gods.  Festivities continued in the bar for some time after, where a penguin in a suit was waddling about for no discernible reason. He was a very happy penguin though, as were we all.

Words: Helen True