Photography: Michelle Roberts / sheshoots.co.uk

The Zutons

Eventim Olympia 6/4/19

The second of two long sold-out shows at the opulent Olympia is at full capacity long before THE ZUTONS emerge on stage at the venerable West Derby Road venue. As Spiritualized’s I Think I’m In Love fades down, the instrumental sliver that evokes the band as re-scored by Hitchcock composer Bernard Herrmann issues from the PA.

Taking to the stage of the former circus (no, really) bathed in shadows, the band strike up their theme tune of sorts as Zuton Fever booms from the PA. Dirty Dancehall follows, its chorus lyric, “It’s close to midnight in the city of culture/but everyone’s whacked and looks like vultures” is not entirely inaccurate over the current Grand National Weekend. 15 years on, The Zutons’ sound remains as wide-ranging as ever, moving seamlessly from the relatively straight up 60s pop of Havana Gang Brawl to the skronking Beefheartian groove of Long Time Coming, via Bacharach-style chamber pop cut Not A Lot To Do and on to Railroad, which could double up as a Johnny Cash song.

Addressing the audience in a Vegas showman/Televangelist voice – “you’re such a wonderful audience” – Dave McCabe is as personable a frontman as ever, if seemingly slightly dazed from how big, not to say loud, the audience is. Saxophonist/vocalist Abi Harding – looking like a Great Gatsby character in her yellow flapper dress – is an irrepressible presence, while Boyan Chowdhury has transmuted into a full-on rocker with his long hair and tattoos with the guitar skills to match, dispensing flurries of well-judged axe heroics. Thrown in surprisingly early, Valerie sees several hundred phones light up and people clamber on to shoulders, while Pressure Point is stretched out with audience-assisted, Sympathy For The Devil-style “whoo hoos”s.

Appearing as a six-piece, supplemented by La’s/Cast sideman Jay Lewis and Neil Bradley on keys and percussion, probably the band’s best moment to date, Why Don’t You Give Me Your Love, is given an almost Black Sabbath-style new intro that sees the crowd boogie around like the band in the West Side Story-homaging video. While many of the group’s song lyrics seem to take place at night, the current song prompts thoughts on how impressive a track with such macabre verses (“I’ll chain you up, I’ll make you mine/I’ll keep you locked downstairs/With all the bugs and all the gnats/I’ll feed you rodent hair”) broke into the upper reaches of the singles chart.

Introduced by Sean Payne’s pounding drumbeat, Don’t Ever Think (Too Much) provides the highlight of the set, its combination of punked-up Motown and earworm vocal hook effectively demolishing the studio version. Easing off the tempo, You’ve Got A Friend In Me showcases the strength of the band’s deep cuts, while Moons And Horror Shows concludes the main set with the quartet in unplugged mode at the front of the stage, underlining how strong their vocal harmonies are.

Returning for the encore, bleary eyed morning-after-the-world-ending-bender-the-night-before, Hello Conscience is delivered with manic glee, the song a brilliant paradox with lyrics that question the wisdom of going out and getting wrecked bolted to music that makes for such a suitable soundtrack to such exploits.

Concluding the evening, You Will You Won’t (more after hours themes: “You say you love day/But you come out at night”) is extended into a multi-part call-and-response epic that sees the gig go right up to the curfew. A superb restatement of principles, and on this evidence The Zutons have surely got another 15 years of (rail)road in front of them.

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