So for the second time in six days I headed to the nation’s capital to spend the evening watching the brilliant “Meursault“. Tonight however it wasn’t in a tiny little cafe with forty or so fans huddled together; it was instead in the gorgeous Queen’s Hall with over 800 fans squeezed in to celebrate the launch of “Meursault’s” stunning third album “Something For The Weakened”.
Walking into the bustling room I negotiated myself through the crowd a bit to get a better vantage point (being slightly vertically challenged). The stage was set up with a big shiny black grand piano to the left hand side sitting in front of the music stands for the 9 piece string section that would be joining the band for the performance. Support tonight came from the excellent “Body Parts”, which is the newly titled project from Jill O’Sullivan (“Sparrow & The Workshop“) and Jenny Reeve (“Strike The colours“) and they are definitely worth looking out for in your local gig listings in the future. They were followed by the extremely talented “Rob St John“, if you haven’t picked up a copy of his otherworldly sounding and truly magnificent album “Weald” yet I suggest you seek it out now, you won’t be disappointed.
So back to the evening’s main event, at around half past nine the string section consisting of (from what I could see) six violinists and three cellists (one being “Meursault’s” own Pete Harvey) took their places on stage and were swiftly followed by the band to deafening cheers and applause. Unsurprisingly as the lights dimmed they opened as the album does with a beautiful version of “Thumb”. Its building repeated near four-minute battle cry of “we will not be weakened anymore” echoed around the Queens Hall to the furthest reaches of its balcony.
New single “Flittin” followed and sounded bigger and bolder than ever before backed by the outstanding string section that Neil later christened with the name “The Pumpkin Seeds”. The album running order continued as Neil spoke to the crowd for the first time saying “thank you all very much, we’re Meursault and this song is Lament For A Teenage Millionaire”. The reworked version really has breathed new life into the song and as the ukulele chimed and the strings washed over it for me it became one of the highlights of the set.
A driving version of “Settling” was preceded by Neil asking the crowd “Who all had T tickets and couldn’t be fucked going because it’s raining? Yeah, me too”. I think everyone in the venue was just happy to be there to witness what was turning out to be such a great gig. A powerful rendition of “Hole” rounded off the first half of the album with its touching lyric “and it’s nice to see you smiling”.
It was then time to delve into the back catalogue as “What You Don’t Have” from “All Creatures Will Make Merry….” got a well deserved airing, and sounded absolutely epic as Neil howled “it’s not about what you don’t have, it’s the little you’re given and how far you can run with it”. As they did on Monday night at the single launch they again played new composition “Newboy” with Neil introducing it with a “that was an old song, this is a new one, brand new”. It was great to hear it with the full band and string section and it definitely sounds like it has the potential to be a very welcome new addition to many “Meursault” live sets for the foreseeable future.
The second half of the album then kicked in as the short but sweet instrumental “Lightning Bolt” burst into the exuberant live wire of energy that is “Dull Spark” through a series of hand claps that were mirrored by the crowd. I must have missed the advert in “The List” that read “Meursault Stage Dancer Wanted”, one woman however must have thought she’d seen it as she clambered on stage and danced and clapped her way through the majority of “Dull Spark”. It was only near the end of the song that she was politely invited to leave the stage by one of the crew. If Neil does ever decide that what Meursault need is a “Bez” type character at least they will know where to look. After all she was probably just taking the songs advice to “dance regularly”. Neil acknowledged her enthusiastic shape cutting with a “thank you dancing lady” at the end of the song.
Thanking Jill and Jenny and Rob for supporting Neil said “it was nice to play such a great venue with your friends”. Next came the slow burning start of “Dearly Distracted”, the near 8 minute monster of the album that when it kicks in your hit with a wall and a wail of guitar that you will be under no threat of forgetting anytime soon. Live it just sounds awesome, a bit Pink Floyd a bit Post-Rock it builds and builds and beats your eardrums into submission (in the nicest possible way).
The last two songs of the main set Neil dedicated to special people in his life, the first being the beautiful “Mamie” to his grandmother. The band then closed the set fittingly with the love song “Untitled” which also appears last on the new album. This was dedicated to Neil’s girlfriend Fiona who he said “was basically the nicest person in the world” adding an “I’ve checked”. The band exited to a rapturous round of applause and standing ovation from those seated in the balcony.
It didn’t take long for Neil to return for the encore with his trusty acoustic guitar to play a lovely solo version of “A Small Stretch Of Land” which he dedicated to the band saying they were the best band anyone could ever hope for. Then with a “thank you very much, this is our last song” the band launched into “Song For Martin Kippenberger”. As Neil stepped away from the microphone to sing “please don’t send me homeward” it was mesmerising to watch and the power of his voice just hit you again. If all the microphones in the world suddenly stopped working, Neil would get on just fine without them. It really was one of those amazing gig moments which will live on long in the memory.
Leaving the stage for a second time to an even louder racket from an audience baying for a second encore they would not leave us disappointed. Reappearing almost instantly and thanking the crowd again for their support with a “thank you very very very very very……… much” (you get the idea there were lots of very’s) they rounded off a very special gig with a one hundred mile an hour version of “Fib”.
I’ve been lucky enough to see some amazing gigs at the Queen’s Hall throughout the years; “Frightened Rabbit“, “Feist” and “Bon Iver” particularly stick in the mind, and tonight “Meursault” were up there with any of them. Congratulations to the band and “Song by Toad” for putting on such a marvellous evening for all of us sensible people who these days give the predictable and uninspiring T in the Park as wide a berth as possible.
“Something For the Weakened” is released on the 16th of July on “Song by Toad Records”
You can buy it here…………
And listen to a stream of the album before its release here…..