King Creosote, Manchester Academy 2, 27 January 2015
You remember the first time you hear King Creosote.
‘The internet sent me on a date and the guy gave me a lift home afterwards,’ the woman next to me says. Like everyone else in Academy 2, she is wearing her coat, both hands around her plastic cup of Red Stripe, as if it could warm them. ‘He kept pointing out takeaways where he’d gotten food poisoning, or seen people having fights, so I asked him to put music on. No One Had It Better. Then Two Frocks At A Wedding. The album is so good I actually considered giving him a goodnight kiss.’
On stage, mic stands, amps and a cello are backlit by orange and blue spots. The light feels simultaneously cold and warm. It seems fitting.
‘I was walking around Bournemouth with my girlfriend’s MiniDisc player.’ The man behind us has joined in. He nods at the bar. ‘She’s getting the next round.’
Then it’s my turn. Münchner Freiheit U-bahn station, waiting for the first train. The pillars separating the lines glowed blue, as if waiting to be fastened around wrists, moved to music. My best friend was still asleep in the bed we’d shared that weekend. I wouldn’t see her again for six months. I put in my earphones and scrolled to the playlist she’d made me. John Taylor’s Month Away. Bats in the Attic. I was early – couldn’t risk missing my flight home – and tired, and suddenly crying. When I looked up, the ceiling was tiled in mirrors.
There is movement on stage, places taken behind keyboards, drums and the double bass. ‘Have fun,’ we tell each other. King Creosote opens the set with a smile, a quick ‘Hey, Manchester’, and the first track on From Scotland With Love. Again, it seems fitting: ‘You promised me a feeling / Something to believe in’.
He offers us a new song, I’m A Great Believer In Threes, written when he broke his foot. ‘If you do something hideous to a bone in your body,’ he says, ‘you start hearing all these tales of people who did something worse. Tales you always thought you’d have to go on the internet to find.’ Everyone dances to mentions of the ‘Anne Frank break’, the refrain ‘please just leave me be’.
Pauper’s Dough comes surprisingly early in the set. I’ve always imagined it as ideal for an encore, the swell of it, the repeated rallying cry: ‘You’ve got to rise above the gutter you are inside’. Instead, tonight, it’s delicate, even as other voices join his, plaintive rather than triumphant, urgent. Especially when the band moves straight into Carry On Dancing, which asks ‘how’s that fair? / Take one of us instead / Take one of us older ones instead’.
‘That cheered you up,’ King Creosote jokes afterwards.
Those for whom tonight is the first time will remember songs new enough to need music and lyrics, the sheets sometimes floating from the stands mid-song: Search Party For One, sung entirely by Amy MacDougall, (one-line review by the man behind me: shades of Bjork but with an accordion), Penny Drops and the devastating Kirby Grips (‘Is it enough that you loved me once / Left Kirby grips in every room of my house’).
They will remember how guitarist Sorren Maclean and cellist Pete Harvey hug their instruments when not called upon for a song, as if it’s the only way to keep their hands still.
They’ll remember the cover of Demis Roussos’ Forever and Ever, a song they probably didn’t even realise they knew. The two encores, one fake (the band don’t even leave the stage) and one real, both eliciting stamped feet and whistles.
‘One more tune,’ a man shouts, when the band files sheepishly – because they’d promised they wouldn’t do this – back onto the stage.
‘We’re gonna do one more tune,’ King Creosote agrees.
‘Two more tunes, then. Three!’
They will remember how we’re told to put our arms around the people next to us and sway together to Homeboy: ‘Me, myself and Prozac, together as one’. How the room doesn’t feel so cold anymore, and, when they step out into the night, the wind not so sharp.