A balmy and relatively muggy English summer evening welcomed The Middle East into Shepherds Bush’s own Bush Hall. It wasn’t only the weather that was reminiscent of their homeland, immediately antipodean murmurs filled the hall (like many of the gigs I attend these days – the enlightenment of having an Aussie GF). Murmurs turned to pandemonium as the five plus strong band took to the stage, fortifying that tonight was very much a home from home gig.
The Townsville rockers have been assembled for five years only to oddly sport one album “The Recordings Of The Middle East” amongst various EPs and compilation releases. Like many folk bands I have witnessed, the EPs songs are mythical and lush complimented with pensive picks of guitars and blissful harmonies; juxtaposed by onslaughts of noise and thrashing banjos. The live Middle East flirt between a barndance ho-down to a pin-drop silencing of the crowd. The later reminiscent of young Laura Marling’s musical authority. Marling herself attended the gig as the B&B host to Bree Tranter (female vocalist). In one moment the stage is buckling under the pressure of the foot stomping fun. To the next where the audience has been commanded into musical silence with only the hum of the air conditioning as interruption coupled with the thought that the sweat coating your body would deny had ever been installed.
A lead vocalist could not be pinpointed, with vocals being harmoniously shared between three members: Jordan Ireland, Rohin Jones and Bree Tranter, which doubtlessly derived in a phenomenal sound texture. Add these foundations to the ever-changing amalgamation of instruments and instrumentalists (the list is truly as long as your arm) with the cherry on top being that the band are infatuated with their performance. With this kind of enthusiasum galvanised with their material it seems the band are sifting through copious albums for 75 minutes, what more could you ask?
The Aussies closed with the singalong favorite “Blood” and it was evident that The Middle East you hear through your headphones aren’t the Middle East witnessed on stage. Country roots infect their vigour live, with more power and passion. A crescendo becomes a deafendo, it begs whether amplification is needed at all in such a venue. However, when they wind down to the quiet sections over half the band are satisfied to leave the stage (minus the mentalist from the support band who begged to play then tambourine for every song of their set – he got dragged off...). Very much a home gig on foreign soil but was one hell of an away win.