The penultimate night of King Tuts New Years Revolution promised to be a very special evening indeed. What was originally meant to be a stripped back acoustic performance from Fatherson had morphed into a “Fatherson and Friends” show that saw the core live five piece augmented by six more bodies in the shape of both string and brass sections. A completely sold out and attentive King Tuts crowd stood in anticipation and belief that what they were about to witness was going to be nothing short of an aural triumph.
As the last few bars of Jeff Buckley’s “Mojo Pin” rang out over the PA system the Tuts fire exit door which had been cracked open with the band peering out periodically for much of the song swung wide and “Fatherson and Friends” strode confidently into the room to a raucous welcome. Taking to the equipment packed stage five or so minutes before the time the posters adorning the walls around the venue stated, it seemed the crowd weren’t the only ones eager for the show to start.
Tuts normally ample stage square footage seemed to shrink significantly as the eleven talented musicians simultaneously picked up their instruments and opened with a gorgeous rendition of Fatherson live staple “James”. There were beautiful harmonies throughout both “James” and follow up number “Sailors Son” as everyone on stage took part in the vocal cacophony that swirled around lead singer Ross Leighton’s pitch perfect delivery. Battling to be heard over the massive cheers that engulfed the venue Ross welcomed us all with an “alright how are you doing? We are a band called Fatherson and these are our friends and this is a song called “Gone Fission”.
The song was the first time the two banks of strings and brass burst into life and they sounded bold as the two trumpets, trombone, two violins and a viola merged perfectly with Elaine’s cello and the rest of the band. It also brought the first real sing along of the set as sections of King Tuts struck up in vocal support at the line “cause I’ve been on both sides of the argument tonight and I can’t even believe in myself”. “43” from their self titled debut EP followed on and could quite easily be painted with the anthemic or epic brush as it bathed in strings and brass, although to be fair most of the songs played tonight could easily have fallen into this category.
Seeming genuinely surprised at the turnout for the gig Ross said he was “completely overwhelmed as to how many people have come out to see us play an acoustic show”. The gig then did strip back completely as Ross announced he was going to play a solo song “to I dunno try and compete with these guys”, as he gestured towards the string and brass ensemble to his left. The two minute or so version of “Dust” was absolutely breath taking and definitely gave Ross a chance to let his voice take centre stage accompanied only by his guitar and beautiful wistful harmonies with cellist Elaine.
The set then picked up pace again with fan favourite “Hometown” seeing all eleven musicians playing their fingers to the bone and straining their vocal cords as they put absolutely everything into the performance. After the enthusiastic clapping and cheering tailed off to a dull roar Ross introduced the next song by saying “this year we are releasing an album and this song is definitely going to be on it, it’s called “Cat Stevens”. The Cat Stevens father and son reference is plainly there for all to see and it was also apparent from the amount of mouthing along to the lyrics of the song that there were not many Fatherson virgins crammed into King Tuts.
As bassist Craig announced “this might be the last song” shouts of “Noooooooooo” could be heard echoing around the low ceilings of the venue. Ross then quickly interjected adding “there’s a key word in that sentence a few of you MIGHT have figured it out”, which raised sporadic laughter from around the room. The first part of the set was then brought to a close with a rousing rendition of the ethereal sounding “Kiteers” which showcased the bands soft/loud juxtaposition dynamic brilliantly and ensured the eleven-piece disappeared off stage to yet another deafening din.
The fact it was only just after half past ten coupled with the big hint given by Craig and Ross meant that an encore was surely imminent. The wait for a return was short lived as the band took refuge in the King Tuts corridor while a minor stage refurb took place to rid it of its bountiful supply of microphones. As the core five piece climbed back onto the stage it quickly became apparent that the encore was going to be Fatherson without their “Friends”.
The rumbling sound of new song “Rosie” did its best to destroy eardrums as Ross sang “I stand at the dusty train station” and the band drifted into a heavier post-rock sound. Craig then said with a big smile on his face “we tricked you into thinking this was a bit of an acoustic set but we’re a proper rock band so we thought we’d play some and as Ross said we’ve been working on an album and we’re playing some songs from it and that was one of them”. “Lights” is another song that’s been in the live rotation last year and received an enthusiastic response from the crowd, while another new song lyrically saw Ross throwing himself under a bridge and searching for someone under water.
With a brilliant evening of music drawing to a close Ross gave it a finite time limit by saying “we’re gonna play two more songs for you” as Craig added “hopefully you can get your vocal chords working and give us a hand singing”. He had nothing to worry about as the audience’s vocal participation was never in question on “First Born” and it wasn’t just a case of trying to “get along with the cool kids”. Ross then gave a “shout out to King Tuts who’ve had an amazing festival on for the whole of January” before rounding off the set by playing “James” for the second time of the evening giving the set a nice bookend effect. As the song drew to a close the band moved back from their microphones and everyone pilled back on the stage forming a line in the middle. The ranks of friends of Fatherson then swelled from 6 to 306 as all of a sold out King Tuts burst into song on the line “so go home, sober up, take the weight off your feet and just chill”.
As we shuffled out down the narrow Tuts staircase the theme tune to Jurassic Park blared out over the PA system and it was clear by the smiles on everyone’s faces that what we had just witnessed managed to live up to and surpass our expectations for the show. Outside I overheard a couple of fans saying that the sing along to “James” at the end even surpassed that of a “Frightened Rabbit” gig and I think I might just about have to agree. There is no doubt in my mind that we’ll be seeing a lot more of Fatherson in the coming months, I think its inevitable 2013 will turn out to be a very exciting year for the band.