Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Wednesday, May 09, 2007 
The Toff in Town

Once past downstairs security, the doorman, the coat-check/ticket seller, the second doorman and your table-service waiter's pleasant introduction, you realise the The Toff  in Town more than lives up to its name. Padded, art-deco motif walls, sparkling bar with curiously-shaped brewery-specific beer glasses and artful barmen; clearly Airborne won't be playing here any time soon. The Crayon Fields wend their way through meticulously scattered tables, to the arch-canopied stage and deliver a fantastic set featuring several songs off earlier EPs as well as highlights from last year's album Animal Bells. Tonight's mix pushes the bass-end of The Fields' sound which makes them more gutsy and warm, though still allows their indie-Morricone arrangements to sparkle. Apparently they're unable to write sad songs, and when hearing tonight's performances of Impossible Things and the recently Pitchfork-lauded Choir Of Tiny Boys, you'd doubt anyone is missing them.

Lengthy-resum├ęd and sharply dressed guests Raquel Solier, Tim Picone and backup singers Alana and Cara augment the new Sir lineup of Mikey Stabbs on keyboards, Seth Rees on guitar and Mr. Jesse Jackson Shepherd himself out front. Together they deliver a perfectly toned and almost faultless performance, launching the new CD The Brando Room. Opening song, and highlight Men Who Lie saw the atmosphere set at dour sleaze before moving to arrogant sadness, via complicit sadism. "This next song is about friends who make you pay to be their friend." Laughter. "I'm not laughing," he mutters before launching into Spent Time With A Woman. Shepherd cuts a Graney-esque figure, though one more concerned with emotional residue of the past than being hip. His sub-octave vocal range is so subtly suggestive in it's delivery you have to strain to hear his stories of gloriously maudlin love. Your World Is Too Small For Me and When You Pray are both great indicators of the quality of his writing if not the variety of subject matter. Rees' glorious slo-mo ricochets of guitar add a wondrously luminous quality and Stabbs' multi-textured and iridescent keyboard work keeps things firmly rooted in slick electro territory.

What few must have been predicting was their sudden teleporting to the cabaret scene from Mulholland Drive which occurred as new member Jane Badler (star of TV shows V, Mission Impossible and Falcon Crest) took to the microphone for The Devil He Has My Double. Stunningly beautiful (the likelihood of plastic surgery involvement was a hot topic during her performance), fearlessly confident in a feisty Shirley Bassey way and a sterling match for Shepherd's songs, Badler is clearly at home and sets about making those of us who felt under-dressed for a night at The Toff feel classy by virtue of proximity. Shepherd joins her for I Love Everything and a rollicking version of Everybody's Somebody's Fool which is made into an anthem of redemption. A 24-carat night.

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