Ah TOM VEK, that nice chap who was at one time touted as the next big thing in British music. You know the one. He released a cult album around 2005 and then disappeared into the ether for some many years before returning with his much-anticipated follow-up and a snazzy new haircut. Precisely the kind of guy you’d like to take back to your parents. Yes Dad, he’s in a band but don’t worry, it’s a steady income (provided it isn’t another six years until his next album). Mum would love him. Handsome without being threatening, a casual but polite demeanour. A safe pair of hands.
But his safety has proven to be a bit of a stumbling block for me. Like sneaking a drink from your parents’ cupboard aged 14 or that first cigarette at a friend’s birthday, falling for Vek’s minimalism may well feel exciting and dangerous at the time but in hindsight proves to be little more than a rite of passage – something that you move beyond onto more exciting things. That’s not to say he is in any way musically naïve. Over the course of his three albums – the most recent of which, Luck, he is here tonight touring – he has proven adept at combining disparate threads of electronica, indie and pop. In combining these, though, I’ve always found his music to be a lot of everything but not necessarily enough of anything.
In the studio his production chops go some way to overcoming this issue, imbuing the tracks with energy and vigour. In the flesh, however, the tracks come across as a little tired and uninspired. Polished and precise, definitely, but lacking in energy and inventiveness. Nothing from the newest album stands out particularly and even though the big hitters Nothing But Green Lights, C-C and A Chore manage to provide some energy, it fizzles out between songs – Vek lacking the onstage presence to really get the crowd going.
All of the tracks do indeed highlight Vek’s proficiency as a songwriter with an excellent grasp of melody and rhythm but, as a live act, him and his band (again, perfectly capable if not maddeningly exciting) do little to convince me. Things do pick up somewhat in the middle of the set but the momentum is cut short by an awkwardly placed ballad. Maybe, this being a Sunday, they are a little tired, maybe Vek feels a little more at home in the studio than on the stage or maybe it’s just one of those nights, but he’s not quite won me round just yet.