(with Young Fathers)
Callum Easter is the most significant indie musician alive in Britain right now. Onstage at the O2 venue in Birmingham in the UK, accompanied by popstar vocalists Jacqui and Pauline - 90s hitmakers with the Hippychick band, Soho - Callum, teasing his piano accordion and Bentley Rhythm Ace to the ends of their sonic capabilities, shone a new light on his intimate and emotive songs of the soul.
I think nearly all of Bearwood was on the balcony to witness it.
The stage setting looks like the remnants of the UK space program closing down sale, a massive silver heat deflector enveloping the entire stage, an astronomical bacofoil backdrop cast with giant shadows lit from below, captivating a captivating performance; an artist unencumbered by hauntological conventions, Callum Easter’s inverted retrofuturism eloquently articulates the new and unfamiliar, most importantly, in a way that you can whistle to.
He’s currently touring with and opening the show for the Mercurial Young Fathers - Callum's guitar, organ, glockenspiel and synthesiser contributions a glorious and immoderate musical foil for the multi-award winning band. He’s from the same Edinburgh council estate as the band by the way, but was born in Hastings around the time Mike Scott was getting his magical This is The Sea recordings underway in a studio in that town. Hastings of course housed Aleister Crowley for a time too and you’re with me right… There’s something about Scott, Crowley and Easter and their ability to insinuate the secular, sacred and maybe in the Christian canon profane, as workaday and profound in their music and mystery. You’re just not gonna get that everyday.
Callum opens his set with his stripped back Lonely World from his most recent LP Get Forever… Delete Don’t Want. With that accordion, it’s a non-Hollywood backstreet Paris splayed wide across the bigscreen. Jacqui and Pauline add the high drama, dressed all in black, monastical escapees to Callum’s St. Teresa - more tears are shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones - The singers are hiding in plain sight.
Tonight also saw songs from Callum’s back catalog, the upbeat Little Honey and a moody slow sexy Backbeat. During Feelings Gone I think the first 30 rows of the crowd sang word for word. Even I got gooey and I don’t like anything ever. I don't know what might've happened here if he'd been wearing his signature white suite or played his beautiful, studied piano ballad, One Thought. Melted the audience entirely maybe.
What would a show featuring the Bentley Rhythm Ace be if the drum machine didn’t want to be the biggest brightest star on stage? Apparently wired for Japan, Callum’s drum machine is possessed by a sort of Belligerent Artificial Intelligence we’re always being warned is far down the road in the future. The story here is the voltage makes the machine slow down or speed up or refuse to perform with the voices that might be hoped for. It’s very exciting to see as Callum manually wrestles with the Bentley dials - the drum machine is in control of the strobelights too. It’s precisely this controlled chaos, and I don’t doubt for a minute that they don’t know what is going to happen next, That’s Entertainment!TM - It all serves to remind me a little bit of that great night an age ago when I saw Tom Waits at the Wilshire. Callum Easter, the showman, right now is uniquely and insidiously great like that, and really, while you can, you should see him like this.
There was a very sweet moment after the end too when Callum reached out a hand to help Jacqui and Pauline in turn to carefully step over the floorlights as they left the stage. I dunno, lovely.
Main image, Callum Easter by Kat Gollock
Live photo is a video screengrab from Jez Collins in difficult circumstances
Watch out for Callum Easter Week in Outsideleft soon...