24 February 2014 (gig)
01 March 2014
When faced with an undersold venue its’ difficult for any band. There’s not really much else to do other than be professional and get on with it. That’s exactly what Sweet Gum Tree - on their first UK tour - did the other night and played a blinder.
The baby of French singer/songwriter Arno Sojo, Sweet Gum Tree skirts the edges of prog rock with the basic ensemble of guitar, bass, drums, piano, joined by violin, viola and cello. Now on the album the latter tended to swamp the tracks and make them sound samey. Live they feel more incorporated and from opener Bird of Passage to closer Heather (save for a couple of songs in the middle) are on the nose. The sound was almost perfect with Sojo’s sensitive vocals beautifully complemented. He’s also no slouch on the guitar as he deftly demonstrated several times.
As you’d expect the album – The Snakes You Charm & The Wolves You Tame – was the core of the set. One of the album’s lesser moments, The Vulnerable Almighty, saw Sojo take to the piano and tonight it was a real tour de force. November Daughter’s delicate insistence took on a darker hue while the main set closer, Breathtaker, with its wide, cinematic textures was sublime.
Lest you think this was just some po-faced gathering of oh-so-seriously-talented musos, the interband banter was fun, they let their hair down a bit with Norwegian Wood, and the anecdote from Sojo regarding the song Heather and his tour with Heather Nova was quite amusing. It was a shame that there weren’t more people at the Chapel to see them, but more fool them because the missed something special.