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Skinny Love live review...
Kowalski, Katie and the Carnival, Elspeth
This month's Skinny Love has enticed a great crowd to abandon their hot water bottles and blankets and brave the elements on this cold February night, and rightly so. First up are Elspeth, a band who fall somewhere on a comparative spectrum which ranges from The Stone Roses to Mansun. At the start of their set it's difficult to avoid the old 'heard it all before' attitude. But as it progresses songs such as 'Old Age' and 'Lullaby' dispel this notion; particularly the former with its haunting bass line and beautifully angular, echoed guitar parts that draw you in and lodge themselves firmly in your brain for days to come. By the end of the set it becomes apparent that this band is definitely worth keeping an eye, or more appropriately, an ear on.

Next on the bill is Katie and The Carnival. They take to their positions fully equipped with cow bells, tambourines, melodicas and a somewhat sinister looking puppet/doll taped to a microphone stand, glaring at the audience (it really was quite unnerving). Aesthetically, they've got the carnival feel down, whilst musically a heady mix of bluegrass, folk, and soulful vocal harmonies add a touch of cabaret to the show. While their whimsical attempt to construe bohemia may be enough to charm some of the audience, for the most part, it really appears to be nothing more than a case of style over substance.

For a while during 2009 it had seemed as though things in the Kowalski Camp had been quite stagnant, but having taken some time out to record, it appears that the band have taken stock and emerged with a completely new lease of life. Old favourites like 'Sunshine State' and 'Seesaw' don't get a look in during this set, instead the band have come to us armed with an arsenal bursting with new songs designed to coax even the most apathetic gig goer onto the dance floor.

Songs such as 'Navigate November' and 'I.D.O.' encompass all that we've come to expect from the band, but are delivered with an even bigger and fuller sound, chock-full of energy and confidence. 'Take Care, Take Flight', is a particular highlight, delivering beautiful layers of shimmering guitar parts drifting over a prominent and infectious bass line, gradually descending into a ferocious musical explosion pulling everyone out of their seats and on to their feet.

It's easy to see why the boys are in good spirits this evening, they're more confident than ever and they should be. The band end on the most recent single, 'Get Back' and as singer Louis beautifully carries the words 'for a while there was dust in our eyes' to the audience, it's becomes glaringly obvious that the dust has cleared and Kowalski are back stronger than ever. Tonight they have reaffirmed for us why they are one of the most exciting bands to come out of Northern Ireland in recent years and are most certainly a force to be reckoned with.

Vivienne O'Neill

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Gig Details
Venue: Aunt Annies
Location: Belfast
Date: 3/2/2010

Related Links
+ Kowalski (myspace)
+ Katie and the Carnival (myspace)
+ Elspeth (myspace)