Witness Camden Barfly Thursday 31st May
There's a former Stone Roses bassist standing by the bar, but tonight
they'll be no talk of elephant stone or sitting on your arse for 5 years
(though after both support bands tonight, the feeling wasn't entirely
dissimilar). One thing Witness have got in common with the Roses though, and
it's a quality they've seemingly recently acquired, is pure, unadulterated
belief in the power and purpose of what they're doing.
It's there from the second they stride on and 'Scars' shudders across the
devotees (easily filling three quarters of the upstairs of a North London
pub). All the elements are still in wondrous check - starkly poised vocals,
mutterings of disquiet from the crackling guitar and a rhythm section dying
to get a word in.
It's a mixture of something old, something new, a bit borrowed and shades of
real blue. New gems 'Here's One For You', 'Dividing Line' and 'You Are All
My Own Invention' overflow with strength and direction, building to climaxes
that soar and elevate, making the plaintive and mundane sound warm, magical
and other-wordly. I believe the term is 'breathtaking'.
Old favourites are recast in this same vein of vigour. 'So Far Gone' adopts
new robes and takes on a different shine, put through the misery mixer, add
a twist of forgiving maturity and you have the makings of a live as well as
album classic. 'Quarantine', with its swaying guitars occasionally bumping
into Gerard Starkie's vocal, all resigned resilience and composed
resentment, becomes what everyone here tonight secretly knew it was - the
most quietly perfect debut single ever.
Typically, they close with 'Still' and it's times like this that I hate
being single. The Cure said 'boy's don't cry' but what about grown men. If
they could just hear the way Gerard Starkie sings "Put your shaking hand in
mine, like you're part of me, like you're actually a part of me" I'm sure
they'd revise their lofty, buttoned-up approach to public showings of
Witness have well and truly returned, hurtling through the door with an
irresistible and exhilirating wake-up call to all those who thought
intelligent guitar music had to translate as busking Scots or terminally
lugubrious self-indulgence from those with nothing to say about nothing very
Witness have got something to say, delivered with energetic grace. They
really do deserve more than this.
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