Live review

I Am Kloot
Stanley Theatre, Liverpool : 27.9.2003

The venue isn't huge, but it's full to the brim and buzzing with a giddy blend of laughter, beer and expectation; like a good party, that everyone knows is about to get better. Cue the arrival of Manchester's quietest acoustic folk-rock-alt-pop sensation I Am Kloot who seem equally appreciative at the impressive turn out as they trundle onto stage in their characteristically understated way.
    Last time round they were struggling to fill venues half this size, but now I feel much less like a member of a secret musical sect as I settle in comfortably with the hundreds of equally eager fans. Evidently word got out, and about time too. However you decide to genre-ise I Am Kloot - an increasingly difficult task since someone bought them an electric guitar - there's no denying that they've got that 'something' which can turn average, everyday people like me, into devoted, chorus-chanting fans virtually overnight.

Sliding into action, the first few familiar chords of Twist swing us into that unique bluesy, folkesque groove which they seem to master effortlessly with a relaxed air of Mancunian nonchalance. Once we've eased into the sway of things we get a taster of their new album - the imaginatively titled I Am Kloot - in the shape of A Strange Arrangement Of Colour with its lingering intro followed by a swift series of tempo changes and a distinctively funky alt-pop flavour. This is trailed by another fine new song, From Your Favourite Sky which rings with John Bramwell's poetic lyricism and is rich in that special blend of irony, humour and keen human observation which places him in the same musical lineage as Dylan.
    And it's not just the lyrics; Bramwell has a refreshingly 'interactive' approach to his audience, making a daring break from the 'I don't give a toss if you're listening or not' static performances of some slighter better known Mancunian acts. As we sing a hearty Happy Birthday to an elated and surprised fan I can't help wondering that if they stopped being so occupied with the 'little people' and started focusing on the 'big picture' they might get the wider recognition they so clearly deserve. You just aint gonna fill 20,000 seater stadiums by remembering your fans' anniversaries. But perhaps that's what makes them so unique; you honestly feel as though they'd play every bit as well, and with just as much feeling if they were in your Nan's living room. Although I doubt my Nan would be quite as appreciative as this lot, as they roll on to the iconic Morning Rain - another great example of I Am Kloot's ability to be both melancholy and lifting, mixing caustic wit with genuine insight to produce a rare, rewarding sound.
    As they play on they weave a hazy progression from the old to new, more like an organic development than the usual producer-led, cynically consumer-conscious 'shift' in direction. Musically they're maturing well, without loosing their playful edginess, although songs like Not A Reasonable Man show that they're not afraid to strip it all back down to the bones, and write and perform with uncommon sincerity and vulnerability. You instinctively sense that Bramwell writes what he knows as he introduces Proof as, ". . . a song about drinking and disaster."

The highlight of the gig comes, oddly enough, from the arrival of a rather nervous and overawed looking French horn player who joins the trio for The Same Deep Water As Me; a reflective, beautiful number which fits the low lit, moody setting to a tee.
    And watching them live, in this dim and steamy hall it becomes clear that this is their natural environment, reflecting a raw authenticity and honest level of self-awareness which sets them apart from the rest of the glitz-lust industry, and makes this the most satisfying and worthwhile musical experience I've had in a fair old while. Keep it up lads.

:: Tom West

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