SeatbeltsNear Normal @ Future Yard 30/10/20
On stage, SEATBELTS give the impression they’re there for their own enjoyment before anything else. The addition of a crowd seems like merely a luxury. They’re locked into one another; thtat’s all that seems to matter as the first drum roll announces this seemingly casual jam dressed up as a serious live experience.
However, for this show, the notion of a real-life audience has been removed all together. On this occasion you can be grateful for not having to bob and weave past a sea of smartphones. Through the angles of tonight’s livestream, you can see exactly how each member is consuming just as much as they are producing. Purpose is pumped into every note.
There’s an ease about their presence on the purple hued stage tonight. Nonchalant as they are fervent, egos are seemingly left behind with Seatbelts. Well documented for being liberal in their writing and creative process, the quartet switch naturally between Content Crush, Spanish Songs and Superstardom – tracks which roll through classic grooves and up-beat art rock. An aura of honesty and authenticity emits from the band. Perhaps a little too honest as James Madden (vocals and guitar) apologetically confesses, he “absolutely fluffed the first vocal”. It’s actually fairly decent. But it’s clear Seatbelts want to do their creativity justice.
Bouncing into Black Spring, their first release off the new EP Edwyn, recorded in 2019 with Orange Juice’s Edwyn Collins, James and Abi Woods (keys, guitar and vocals) question ‘are we going through the big change?’, seemingly foreseeing the uncertainty of 2020 and reflecting the bands self-awareness of their everchanging artistic journey. Watching them perform is a glimpse into this evolution. Inclusion of a sax player and an additional guitarist demonstrates their flexibility and heightens the performance of the four-piece. Each commit to the performance almost as individuals, but their sounds blend so well it’s like sipping on an indulgent cocktail of instruments.
Though performing for the first time since the release of the Edwyn EP in August 2020, there’s no telling signs of ring rust. Maybe the hinges of their natural groove needed a lick of grease in the opening sequence, but from there on they’re in full flow. As they glide into Transient Waves the atmosphere feels light and intoxicating, almost like tipsily weaving through bodies at party, with a gentle hum in the background.
Stage or no stage, audience or no audience, it doesn’t matter to Seatbelts. Tonight, they put the wheels back into motion without screech. Seamless.
This review was written as part of Bido Lito!’s Bylines programme – workshops for culture writers of the future. To find out more about Bylines join our mailing list. Bylines is supported by Arts Council England.