Arab Strap - Cambridge APU

The winter is finally upon us, the air is chilly (even down south) and Arab Strap bring their drunken, sex obsessed wagon down from the Highlands, but will they entertain?

It doesn't start well as this evenings support act, My Latest Novel, seem to have a difficulty in time keeping. Their excuse is that they were playing for the Scottish Parliament yesterday, but it looks like there was some vigorous partying afterwards. All members look a little worse for wear and after coming on a good half and hour to forty-five minutes late, they do a very quick unplugged set. Now when I say "very quick", I mean it - they play two songs before leaving. It's hard to make any comments after such a brief set, but they sound folky and very similar to Belle & Sebastian with lead singer Chris Deveney's vocal delivery similar to Aidan Moffat's. I'd like to see these guys again, they do just enough in two songs to keep me interested.

I'm a little apprehensive about seeing Arab Strap as they arrive on stage - I've heard mixed things about their live sets, sometimes a shambles, sometime inspired... what will we get?

For a start, Moffat speaks to the crowd, which is apparently a rare occurrence anyway, mumbling about not having been to Cambridge before and that it's better than Northampton (though that's not hard, to be fair). They play a fair number of tracks from their back catalogue, which is refreshing to hear. What can be said about the Arab Strap Live Experience tonight is how tight they sound. The drummer and bassist are apparently new, but tonight it doesn't show and Malcolm Middleton's guitar work is superb and really deserves to be heard by a larger audience.

Predictably, between song banter is bordering on non-existent and it's hard to gauge whether they're enjoying themselves or not. But they play with a passion that certainly transfers into the music and perhaps that's a good an indication as any.

What is apparent about Arab Strap in 2005, is their almost joyous new sound - the new record is more up tempo than previous efforts and the tracks from that rattle along in good spirits. Things do take a little turn for the worst however, when they return for an encore and a little unplugged set. Something that seems to happen at most gigs now, some members of the crowd were chatting as Moffat asked for quiet to start the song, but some members of the crowd carried on regardless. Which resulted in him telling them to "Fuck off, you paid good money to see us, so what can't you just shut the fuck up". Which is nice, but fair - this is becoming more and more noticeable at gigs and, not wanting to sound like an old man, really annoying.

After playing a few more songs, he apologises for his outburst, blaming it on a couple of shots of whiskey he downed before coming back on stage. Is this REALLY Arab Strap? Apologising to the crowd... perhaps they have chilled.

Finishing the evening with the lacklustre single Dream Sequence almost tests the patience however, after playing such a great set it seems a little half-arsed to finish it on that track. But the crowd seem to enjoy it and the night finishes and I leave the venue with a weird mixture of elation and disappointment.

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Last updated: 19/04/2018 07:12:28

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