The Picturebooks - Exchange, Bristol
The intimate and compact, yet disarming Exchange Bristol was the venue for the penultimate UK performance by The Picturebooks on their current tour. The German duo of Fynn Claus Grabke, on vocals/guitars, and Philipp Mirtschink, drums, have been incredibly industrious and ambitious with their previous two albums as they completed more than 350 shows worldwide over the last three years. The release of their current long player The Hands of Time and the frenzied following at the venue is a timely reminder that the hard work and continued experimentation with their unique sound and the genuine warmth shown towards fans have paid off beautifully.
The opening act, Jonny Hallifax and the Howling Truth, sauntered on stage and immediately drew the attention of all. His Rob Zombie-like attire and style raised hopes instantly and his opening song 'Rage' did not disappoint. The electro-programmed Slide guitar shredding and slicing through the expectant crowd. Hallifax's growling and bruising voice, the perfect accompaniment to the unique and unusual instrumentation. 'A Difficult Man' followed on strongly, but then, like a Dario Argento film, the set unravelled into disjointed and unfocused noise. The unusual combination of Bluegrass, Rock and DJ set became unruly and chaotic with the unrefined acoustics of the venue battling against every effort made by Halifax. 'Creepy Jesus' and 'Mountain' showed intense potential but was lost in translation and electric feedback. The potential and talent are evident, but the execution on the night was jarring and unfortunate.
Enter The Picturebooks and all was forgiven. Opening with 'You Can't Let Go' the collaborative song with Rock Icon Chrissie Hynde, from the latest album, was a confident and proud choice, reiterating the ambition and impressive reach of their work. Fan favourite 'I need that Oooh' was next and the crowd erupted in recognition and celebration. Fynn's voice oozing with melancholy and menace as he took control of every inch of the stage and without exception making individual eye contact with each fan in the crowd. Mirtschink, in turn, also dominated his drums with robust rage and riotous rhythm. At one point, during 'Wardance', his soft mallet drumstick broke clean in half and Mirtschink continued, in his distinctly kinetic way, to physically punch every ounce of rhythm out of the drums with his bare fist. The energy and intent of feeding the crowd's insatiable appetite for even more. The set continuously escalated, starting strongly, but unbelievably, building to an ever-growing and unexpected crescendo that included the sublime 'Rain' and thunderous 'The Rabbit and the Wolf'.
The Picturebooks are steadily, but certainly, staking their claim as one of the hardest working bands in the industry and they are achieving this with genuine warmth, dedication to intense live shows and a significant talent for quality anthems. It is clear for all to see that with persistence and precision, these small town boys will inevitably conquer every big city lucky enough to host them.