I’m not sure why I hesitated before deciding to see U.K. indie-rock band Fanfarlo again, since I’ve liked them so much in the past and love their 2009 record Reservoir. I finally got off the fence and decided to see Fanfarlo Wednesday (April 7) at Lincoln Hall, thanks in part to one of the opening acts, a New Zealander named James Milne, who goes by the stage name Lawrence Arabia. (There’s no “of” in there.)
Lawrence Arabia won me over in concert with a sunny, slightly psychedelic sound with some touches of the Beatles and Beach Boys and his fellow Kiwi act the Ruby Suns. Not surprisingly, Milne has been a member of the Brunettes and the Ruby Suns (and also a touring member of Okkervil River). On his myspace page, he calls his songs “new old fashioned pop music,” which is an apt label. Lawrence Arabia looks like an act to watch. He has a new CD called Chant Darling out on Bella Union.
Alas, the other opening act on Wednesday, Robert Francis, gave me more of an allergic reaction. Way too power-ballad-y for my tastes.
But of course, it was well worth seeing Fanfarlo again no matter who the opening acts were. This was the best of the five performances I’ve seen by the band since 2008 (including three SXSW sets, a couple of which were marred by technical problems).
On Wednesday, Fanfarlo was completely in control of its music, playing the songs in a way that revealed the interplay between the voices and instruments. We heard the full band playing all of its parts, but also little moments when some of the sounds dropped out, becoming more like intimate duets. In one exceptionally beautiful passage, lead singer Simon Balthazar and multi-instrumentalist Cathy Lucas harmonized with wordless a cappella notes, stretching out at the end of a song.
The set included the key tracks from Reservoir — including one of my favorites, “Fire Escape,” which I’d never heard Fanfarlo play until now — and a couple of new songs.
As part of National Record Store Day (that’s next week — Saturday, April 17), Fanfarlo is releasing an exclusive 7” vinyl of the song “You Are One” with Fleetwood Mac cover “What Makes You Think You’re the One” on the B side. See recordstoreday.com for details on where you can buy this record and other Record Store Day exclusive.
Fanfarlo is also giving away a new EP to anyone who signs up for their mailing list at www.fanfarlo.com