The audience for Two Gallants’ performance in King Tut’s were a literate-looking bunch. Spectacles and beards abounded, as you might expect amongst a group of people who’d come to see a band named after a James Joyce story.
The impression that this was a gathering of quiet intellectuals was shattered, however, when the singer of one of the support acts asked if anyone had any drugs and was met with the response “aye, but they’re suppositories” from one bespectacled audience member.
The first support act was singer-songwriter, Jonathan Snee. He has a strong voice and his more anguished material shows definite promise.
Following him was Belgium’s The Hickey Underworld. They play a complicated brand of grungy emo rock. While the band are impressive musicians, the material didn’t really seem to connect with the audience until they moved away from the more emotional songs and started rocking out towards the end of their set.
Adam Stephens, the lead singer of Two Gallants, took to the stage in a Guns ‘n’ Roses Use Your Illusion t-shirt. Given the fact that the band’s songs are often stories set in the 19th century I had half-expected the duo to come out wearing flat caps and braces.
At their best the Gallants use fiction to express quite raw emotional states. One of the highlights of their set was My Madonna with it’s repeated line “if liquor’s a lover, you know I’m a whore”.
Musically the spare combination of distorted folksy guitar and drums with occasional harmonica is effective. Stephens’ often cracked voice gets across their tales of heartbreak and despair brilliantly.
Other highlights included Despite What You’ve Been Told, Steady Rollin’ and Las Cruces Jail – all of which come from the band’s older albums.
The less despairing material is much less engaging than the songs about drinking yourself to death and the like. One of the audience repeatedly shouted out for Broken Eyes, a relatively upbeat number from their latest album. The band delivered this as the closer for their main set. While much of the audience sang along happily, I would have been disappointed if this had marked the end of the gig.
Fortunately, they came back for an encore and finished on the satisfyingly depressing Nothing To You.
If you’re going to listen to people pretending that they’re from the 19th century then I’d recommend these guys over Mumford and Sons any day of the week.