Up until their recent album Nature Will Take Care Of You Run Logan Run have been a duo mixing Andrew Neil Hayes’ saxophone and Matt Brown’s drums with core tunes expanded by improvisation. With saxophone run through multi-effects and drums offering frenetic polyrhythms they pull psych, jazz and soul into a sound that has to be heard to be believed. Run Logan Run were at Bristol’s Strange Brew to launch their album to an eager hometown crowd in an event promoted by their label Worm Discs. This was one of the first dates on their current tour (see dates below).
Support came from Annie Gardiner on guitar/vocals with some incredibly empathic double bass playing from Jo Kelley. She brought a hush to the audience (also a hometown crowd for her) as she brought us songs taken from her recent album Bloodletting*. Her voice treads softly like walking on moss, or floats mist-like over her pared back guitar and she seems to gather the songs in around her as she plays them; full concentration as she is perched on a high stool (so much concentration that she only noticed her leg had gone dead half way through the set in between songs). There is an incredible clarity in the tone of her voice as she moves between mournful tones on ‘Too Much Sadness’, and ‘Devil Deep’, to a breathless, almost ghostlike sound, on ‘Bellyside’ and a half-smile on ‘Day After Day’. But, for me, the last two tracks of the set stood out: the hypnagogic ‘Anaesthetic’ with the lament of the repeated line “it happened so fast she hardly had time to hold her baby” and ‘Let Me Burn’ in which Annie sets up the sensation of flames crackling by crinkling paper into a loop as a backdrop to hymnal feeling of the song which is brought to a crescendo and rapturous, well-deserved, applause.
Run Logan Run opened their set with ‘Growing Pains’ which mixes the heavyweight drum footsteps and push-me-pull-you sax with light sections that create the feel of an exotic location in the early hours. ‘Where Do You Go?’ follows with its aching saxophone lament that trips into a mid-section that’s ripe for jazz-dance choreography. ‘Project Pigeon Missile’ bounces and tumbles along and brings Annie Gardiner back on stage so her voice can ride the songs thermal currents. Andrew Neil Hayes also tells us the song is based on the true WWII story about trying to develop a pigeon-guided missile. ‘Great Fools’ comes on like a jazz ‘O Superman’ with Annie’s voice setting up a pulse under a saxophone phrase, neither of which can prepare you for coming storm when the full band joins in. Over the halfway mark and you can feel the band are not just warmed up they are starting to get to the ignition point. ‘Searching for God in Strangers Faces’ allows guitarist Dan Messore to cut through the maelstrom and melt some frets. I also cannot praise Beth O’Lenahan on bass enough and her playing throughout was sublime. She appeared to be lost in the music providing not only the solid backing you would expect from the instrument but also harmony, attack, and counterpoint. Her bass solo was immense, and she played her pedals nearly as much as the bass itself, all to dramatic effect.
Whereas tracks like ‘Searching for God in Strangers Faces’ and ‘Growing Pains’ show the ability of Matt Brown to scare the living skins off his drums as well as play like his drumsticks are feathers, so ‘Breaking Through’ shows the subtlety of Andrew Neil Hayes’ saxophone playing. He is able to command both loud and quiet in a single phrase with exquisite musical micro-expressions. His control is phenomenal, using his effects to move earth and sky, like Prospero commanding the elements. He cuts loose on the improvised sections but always calms the Caliban in us by returning to the safe harbour of the tune. The encore was the true pinnacle of the night with Annie Gardiner returning to the stage to perform the band’s expansive tour de force ‘Silver Afternoon’ which sits somewhere between Nuyorican Soul’s ‘I Am The Black Gold of the Sun’ and the work of Bernard Herrmann or David Axelrod. But Run Logan are not going gently into this good night and work the crowd into a final frenzy by battering, shredding, booming and shrieking out what’s left of their energy reserves with the part-disco, part gronk-funk track ‘Caveman Disco’.
Run Logan Run were as mesmerising at Strange Brew as they were first time I saw them in London at the Sonic Imperfections night in 2017. They create a complete mood and, as much as you can appreciate the virtuosity of the playing, the technicalities are not a distraction and, as well as getting swept up in the rhythms and tunes, you also feel them viscerally. This is a band that could easily bring down the wall of Jericho. Run Logan Run go beyond your expectations of genre and live they are spellbinding and exhilarating. Go and see them play live, go and see them play live, go and see them play live, go and see them play live.
Run Logan Run on tour:
Sat 18 Feb – Sage Gateshead
Fri 3 Mar – Brilliant Corners 2023
Wed 8 Mar – Peggy’s Skylight, Nottingham
Thu 9 Mar – IWF Substation, Liverpool
Fri 10 Mar – The Jazz Bar, Edinburgh
Sun 12 Mar – Hyde Park Book Club, Leeds
Wed 29 Mar – The Bell, Bath
Sat 15 Apr – Patchwork Studios, Cornwall
Photographs by Chris Lucas
Annie Gardiner’s set:
1 – Too Much Sadness
2 – Devil Deep
3 – Bellyside
4 – Day After Day
5 – Things I Didn’t Know Were There
6 – Anaesthetic
7 – Let Me Burn
Run Logan Run’s set:
1. Growing Pains
2. Where Do You Go?
3. Project Pigeon Missile
4. The Softest Nose In The World
5. Great Fools
6. Searching For God In Strangers Faces
7. Breaking Through
8. Give Me Back My Slippers
9. Silver Afternoon
10. Caveman Disco
* I highly recommend Annie Gardiner’s album Bloodletting (I bought the vinyl at the gig). It’s as sparse, but beautiful, as Derek Jarman’s Dungeness garden and is filled with lush strings and a glorious sense of unease mixed in with the beauty of Annie’s voice and harmonies. I’ve had it on hard rotation since the gig.
I’d would like to thank Run Logan Run and Annie Gardiner for providing me with their setlists and photographs from the night.
Review by Paul F Cook