Animat/Spyband/Avital Raz @ Yellow Arch

August is a month when people will tell you there’s not much to see by way of live music. All the bands are playing the festivals, and the audiences are on holiday anyway, so you might as well stay in and watch QVC. Well, take it from me, that just isn’t true. I’ve seen some really unexpected and brilliant gigs in the middle of the Sheffield summer. I remember Icelandic band Leaves playing a storming gig at the Boardwalk, I once saw the sublime Cherry Ghost at the Leadmill and tonight at Yellow Arch there could not have been a better place in Sheffield to see and hear live music. First on was singer Avital Raz, Jerusalem-born, but now living in the Steel City, playing an acoustic set the like of which you could not easily describe, and which no-one in the entire place could ignore. Her songs about her life, focusing on how politics and sex have had a lasting impact on her, were as spell-binding as they were beautiful. The honesty and passion were comparable to anything I’ve seen on stage this year, and left the audience quite stunned as her short set finished.

The main attraction for most of the audience was Animat, who were next on stage. I’ve sung their praises before, and if the attendance here tonight was an indication, Sheffield seems to be taking some notice. Their sound is one of ambient dub and dub-step. Each piece is carefully crafted by Mark Daly’s clever keyboard and sound filtering work, layered with Michael Harding’s skilful, subtle and precise guitar textures, and with the occasional vocal added in. Their work on film soundtracks was showcased, with parts of their recent audio/visual projects shown behind them to great effect. It was the launch event for their newest EP, which is a sort of stop-gap before a soon to be released remix project. A superb and beautiful set, but the night was still young, and there was more excitement ahead. Spyband finished the night off, and as you might expect from their name, they played a sequence of iconic Sixties and Seventies TV and film themes tunes, from The Man from UNCLE, Department S and James Bond,. Their exciting interpretations of these themes seemed to complete the evening, until their show-stopping performance of Goldfinger. Who knew that lead player Peter Rophone had a voice to rival that of the great Shirley Bassey? Not me, but I know it now. The set was topped off with their version of Diamonds are Forever, and of course, the pinnacle of all spy themes, Laurie Johnson’s theme from The Avengers. Glass of bubbly, Mrs Peel?

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