The brothers Alex and Tom White brought their Electric Soft Parade back to hometown Brighton for the first gig of a short pre-Xmas tour.
Playing songs from their latest album ‘Idiots’, a contender for many people’s end-of-year best-of lists for sure, they added some oldies and an array of obscure covers (Elliott Smith, Billy MacKenzie, Van Dyke Parks, Elvis Presley’s ‘If I can dream’). The set up was acoustic, which gave the normal summery indie-pop of ESP a chestnut carolly warmth and meant we heard quite different versions of the songs, with bits of grand piano, some gorgeous harmonised vocals reminiscent of the Everley Brothers, Damo Waters on the ever-present percussive egg shaker and Tom in a rare foray on the acoustic guitar, played with his usual aplomb and dexterity. Particular favourites on the night were Summertime in your heart, Mister Mitchell and an extrordinarily beautiful acoustic reworking of album title track Idiots. We were also treated to a slow and somewhat morose version of one of the best, most joyful singles of the year ‘Brother, you must walk your path alone’ and a stunning acoustic rendition of their early hit and classic ‘ Silent to the Dark’ which never fails to go down well.
They ended a glorious night with some seasonal songs – White Christmas, enhanced by Gram Canyon making a surprise appearance on comedy trombone; a fabulous version of the Pogues’ Fairtytale of New York with guest vocalists playing the Shane and Kirsty parts; and then Gram came back to put on his gruff voice for an electric rendition of Slade’s ‘Merry Xmas, Everybody’.
Even an old grinch like this reviewer came away feeling all warm and christmassy and it’s only the first week of December and I didn’t touch the mulled wine.
A quick mention for the Dancing Years who aren’t from these parts (they’re Leeds lads) but ESP played with them in Glasgow and liked them so much they asked them to join their tour. If you get a chance their lovely alt-folk tunesmithery is well worth a listen.
Words & Photos by Jon Southcoasting