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The Caves, Edinburgh
THE Shambolics are a national treasure. Exuberant and cool in equal measure, they live-streamed from Edinburgh’s The Caves in support of Kirkcaldy foodbank, smashing out a stream of crowd-pleasers, new songs and covers.
Not an easy task. In between songs, instead of applause there is only guitar buzz and silence but they grabbed the sheer strangeness of the event with heart-warming panache.
An example is new song Living in Shadows, sung to an empty room with mournful sweetness by Lewis McDonald. This was a risk and a triumph — to choose the eeriness of a livestream to introduce new material is the kind of nerve that makes you love the band.
It should become the soundtrack to a million lockdown films, the anthem of our shared year of isolation.
It is no mean feat, in a set that included the Velvet Underground’s Pale Blue Eyes and Fleetwood Mac’s Everywhere, for your own songs to outshine the classics. Not that these weren’t excellent — guest vocalist Kyle Falconer let rip on Everywhere as though in front of a stadium, and the song chimed with the charitable aims of the event.
It’s just that the Shambolics’ own material has something the covers miss, a social awareness that lurks behind the desire to dance.
Perhaps it’s the way that Lewis McDonald and Darren Forbes, who share duties as front men, harmonise, or that their songs have titles like Council State of Mind, and Teens Schemes Dreams. They know what people want from a song and as a foursome they provide it. But there's a detached and poetic clarity of mind going on behind the ability to please.
Or perhaps it’s the way they have the confidence to play around. To look at, you can’t decide if they are neo-romantic (that floral shirt), Siouxsie-era goth (that hat, those cheekbones) or outright Scottish rockers (that beard, nose, and John Byrne knee-length plaid jacket), or all three at once.
They rounded off the set with their funky hit Love Collides, on which Jordan McHatton picks bass with the best and the effervescent Jake Bain bangs out the rhythm.
I wanted more and one advantage of the livestream experience is that you can arrange your own encore. Check out their brilliant Beatles/Eminem mash-up and — mamma mia! — the mad thrill of the Shambolics covering Abba.
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