“I was just going to stand still, but now you’ve made me cry.” Eddie Argos and Art Brut are back amongst their people after a prolonged absence and it’s all getting rather emotional as a packed out Garage chant ‘Art Brut, Top of the Pops’ until their throats are raw while the band attempt a stage freeze. It’s all a bit too much for Eddie, and I appear to have got something in my eye as well.
Before all the blubbing begins we’re treated to an opening set by Fightmilk, whose updated take on 90s indie is as catchy as it is caustic and as heartfelt as it is sardonic. Their set is chiefly comprised of tracks from their excellent 2018 debut LP Not With That Attitude, beefed up for the live show, and it’s a great fit for a crowd of Art Brut fans with a natural affinity for relatable tales of personal experience told with a wry sense of humour and plenty of hooky guitar lines.
Next up are Gaffa Tape Sandy, who seem to have identified my weakness for girl-boy vocals and songs that go slow bit – fast bit – stop – – – faster bit and are exploiting it to spectacular effect with their grunge-tipped indie punk tunes to make me smile like a loon.
It’s been a couple of years wait since they last toured, and seven between fourth album Brilliant! Tragic! and recent new LP Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out!, but when Art Brut step out onto the stage, it’s like they’ve never been away and when only two songs in Eddie Argos breaks into a ten minute long imaginary telephone conversation with his mum about the resurgence of shouty indie rock bands, we know that everything is going to be ok.
Art Brut are one of those bands who bring people together. Perhaps not enough people to fill arenas, but everybody here tonight feels like they belong. We relate to Eddie’s tales of obsessive teenage crushes, crippling hangovers and the power of a perfect pop song. We have become the parents who don’t worry about their young offspring discovering rock and roll. There are tongue in cheek references to our advancing age as ‘Formed A Band’s lyrics are transformed to ‘Just talking to people in their mid to late thirties’ and we get updates on the lives of Eddie’s little brother and Emily Kane, who over the years have come to seem like old school friends of our own.
The first time that I saw Art Brut was in a sparsely populated Buffalo Bar just around the corner from here in 2003. It would not surprise me in the slightest to discover that every one of that night’s crowd are also here today. That togetherness is perfectly encapsulated in the moment at which Eddie makes his way towards the crowd barrier just at the moment a crowdsurfer is pulled out of the pit by security. “Oh, hi Dave,” he chirps, before scaling the barrier himself to wander the crowd, getting the entire venue to crouch down as he unravels a surreal and winding tale about being escorted from the Van Gough Museum in Amsterdam for attempting to taste the paintings.
Art Brut has become about so much more than just the songs, though there are crackers aplenty tonight, both the much-loved back catalogue favourites and brand new stompers such as ‘Hospital’, anthemic main set closer ‘Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out!’ and the self-satirising ‘Kultfigur’ and ‘Too Clever’. They are a band whose stories we have shared, who have welcomed us in to their fold and who have weathered the tumultuous waves of a decade and a half of musical trends to emerge unscathed where so many of their contemporaries have fallen by the wayside. They are our band, and while they’re unlikely to feature in any musical histories of the early 21st Century, they’ll forever have a place in the hearts of those who’ve gathered here today to sing and dance and cry and shout “Top of the Pops” at a band that have been part of their lives for as long as they can remember.
Review and photography by Paul Maps