C Duncan. The Cluny. 25.4.19

Ask most headliners and they’ll tell you that the decision of who to use as a support band can be a difficult one which poses more questions than it possibly ought to.  Do you look for the support of a band on a huge trajectory who might help ticket sales but could end up over shadowing you?  Do you chose friends/ label mates so that you can give them a leg-up? Do you choose the support of an act so awful they pave the way for you to come along and save the day?

There’s plenty of options, I’m sure, as to how to play the ‘game of support’ but it seems like tonight C Duncan is up for taking a risk.  Known for his interesting, experimental, compositions it seems that C has chosen tonight’s main support for their ability to support the creation of an environment which champions a non-linear approach to song-writing.  The risk being, of course, that all hell could break lose.

Given the nod, the role of scene setters tonight belongs to ‘Before breakfast’, a band who themselves site experimental artists (Bjork, Kate Bush) as key influences.  Bold and full of risk, the Breakfaster’s performance combines four-part, female, harmonies with theatrical movements.  Visually focused on frontwoman Gina Walters, and steeped in a mid-Victorian feel, Before Breakfast’s show is delicate and precise allowing intricate harmonies to mix with traditional pop sensations in a sound brought together by deep bass patterns and moody cello work.  Equal parts feminine expression (‘Womb’) to expressionist abstractions (‘Lighthouse’, ‘Open Ears’) the end result of their work is a highly original, deeply emotive, folk-meets-theatre tour of musical landscapes.  This being the first night of their C Duncan support it may be that he’s behind the curtain wishing he’d chosen someone less as impactful; they’re a hell of an act to follow. 

Decked out in a show surrounded by stage props including an assortment of leaves and plants on stage, a neon green ‘health’ sign and a 1980’s transistor radio, it’s clear that C and his supporting band, are up for the challenge.  Coupled with between song moments of background coffee shop ‘chatting’ it’s clear that tonight is being presented as a complete theatrical show, rather than a collection of songs.  If anything it feels like a 1980s health spar.

Highlights (‘Jupiter’, ‘Talk talk talk’ and ‘Stuck here with you’) all showcase C’s ability to compose accessible melodies and then layer them in a combination of musical styles; and across the night there’s moments of 1980’s boy-band pop, multi part folk harmonies, prog rock and, clever, accessible, ‘Post Card’ pop complete with funky guitars, interesting drum patterns, and intelligent narratives.

Finding moments to showcase between song humour and to send himself and the band up, C Duncan somehow manages to walk the tightrope of mixed emotions and humour and bring it all together as one complete performance.

Whether or not his performance was cunningly woven together by a deep consideration of his support, and how they would effect the audience, who knows; what I do know is that we got two interesting, experimental, bands for the price of one.  Brilliant.

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