The Burning Hell - The Sunflower Lounge, Birmingham
"I hope you like love songs. Thanks for being here!"
So begins a lovely evening of love duets and old favourites from The Burning Hell who, in a slimmed down configuration of Ariel Sharratt and Matthias Kom, are playing Birmingham's The Sunflower Lounge. The friendly natured duo, famous for their hyperliterate and dry-witted lyrics, are touring in support of their 1960s-stylised love duet album Don't Believe the Hypereal.
In the night's first song 'What You Want', Sharatt's soft vocals – now given parity with Kom's – set the band's lyrical style off perfectly, helped by the venue's acoustics that render these quiet songs in similar quality to their album's studio setting. Kom's biographical 'My Name is Matthias' is indicative with honest jokes at his own expense, while 'F––k the Government, I Love You' inclusively biographies the duo's first meeting. Old and new songs receive in-line laughter and applause both from the audience and between band members, including for Sharrat's comically timed clarinet solos.
Between songs, Kom sweet talks the audience with his tongue-in-cheek anecdotes: he plans to run with the bulls in the Bull Ring shopping centre and credits the city with inventing oxygen. But the audience treads carefully, 'Robert's Bad End' describes a dead friend, who it turns out is alive. However, 'Eugene & Maurice' follows, describing Maurice Sendak's life's love and, certain, death, and is disconcertingly plaintive with less lyrical dancing. The band's lyrics reward careful listening but in this case the lack of playful glint in the duo's eyes is telling.
The venue has a cosy as well as technical reputation, tonight its 120 capacity being only one third full barely dampens the pervading friendly nature. A personal observation, each time I see The Burning Hell, Kom is in the audience for the entirety of the, often new to him, support act sets. An endearing level of professional respect.
The duo close with their signature song, Kom's "story of my failed dreams and ambitions", 'Amateur Rappers' featuring support band Susie Asado allowing indulgement in a fun clarinet vs drums duel. All leave the stage not terribly convincingly to mingle in the audience before a joking instruction to "Get back up there!" allows them to return for 'It Happens in Florida' on condition the audience sing along. An enthusiastically accepted bargain.
The Burning Hell leave their audience facially exhausted, as smiling for an hour tends to do. A lovely evening of love duets and old favourites in the company of occasionally cheeky but always genuine, and at least for one night, good friends.
What You Want
Somebody to Duet With
In the Future
My Name is Mathias
Robert's Bad End
Eugene & Maurice
F––k the Government, I Love You
It Happens in Florida