Why this gig?
I’ve been running this site for over eighteen months and it’s surprising (and a little embarrassing) that this is the first Stealing Sheep show I’ve seen in that time. After I first saw them in August 2011, I saw them three more times in the following four months. I try to see them whenever they play London, but for the last couple of years their London shows have been rare and I haven’t been able to get to them for various reasons.
But they’re back with a new album and hopefully they’ll be playing more London gigs over the next few months. I already have a ticket to see them again in May.
An extra impetus to get to this show is the venue. I lived in Homerton between 1982 and 1986. Back then I was a regular visitor to Chat’s Palace – but I haven’t been back there for almost thirty years.
Support comes from Meilyr Jones. A tall young man who is apparently playing his first gig (or perhaps, just the first gig with this set of backing musicians). His demeanour immediately reminds me of Jarvis Cocker and when he starts singing that comparison is reinforced. But he clearly has other influences too. There’s more than a small touch of prog rock in many of his songs. If there’s any justice in the music industry (and, sadly, there often isn’t) then we’ll be hearing a lot more of him over the coming years.
A Stealing Sheep show is always a special occasion and tonight is made even more special as it’s the launch night for their new album, Not Real, which will be released in April. There’s a lot of anticipation in the room as they take the stage and it’s therefore a shame that there are a few technical hitches and it’s another five minutes or so before they can get going.
They are a band who are always evolving and changing. When I saw them on the tour for Into The Diamond Sun a couple of years ago I was really impressed at how far they had come since their early EPs. And, two years on, they have made another massive leap. The sound is more rounded (there are a lot more instruments on stage!) , the songs seem more mature and the three women in the band have developed a confidence on stage that was certainly missing when I first saw them in 2011.
Tonight is all about the new album and that’s where most of the set is drawn from. So for most of the audience we’re hearing these songs for the first time. But that doesn’t matter when the news songs are as strong as these are. I don’t know the titles yet, but a particular stand-out is one where Lucy Mercer (usually the drummer) picks up an acoustic guitar and sings. I really look forward to having the album in my hands so I can get to know these new songs.
We do get some older stuff. “Genevieve”, “Gold” and “Shut Eye” are all played towards the end of the set. It’s a mark of the strength of their songwriting that they don’t feel the need to play anything older than that. But I think it would be a real shame if “I Am The Rain” is retired from the set permanently.
As always with Stealing Sheep, it’s a great night. Hopefully this album will be the one that gets them the wider attention that they so richly deserve.