Report: God Help the Girl Live in London

 

 

Was
there ever a band that sounded this good? The Belle and Sebastian offshoot, featuring
Stuart Murdoch, charmed the collective pants off London’s 100 Club on November 21.

 

By Meryl Trussler

 

The 100 Club is one of those legendary London clubs in which
punk germs and jazz greats alike have germinated throughout some 67 years; so
it feels strange to queue up in the plush, wood-panelled hallway upstairs, all
the more eerily quiet without the musak its appearance would seem to
substantiate. Also, it would be a little white lie to say we were all here for God Help the Girl so much
as for the trickled percentage of Belle and Sebastian in its midst. But
whatever scraps of rock history ectoplasm we are looking for by being in this
place are soon forgotten, replaced by God Help The Girl’s explosion of what is
new, and old, and equal, and different.

 

These songs (a self-titled album and an
EP’s worth, by now, leading eventually to a musical film) have Stuart Murdoch
at their heart and thus share plenty with that selfsame B&S – the casually
literate, underdog-monologue lyrics, the Spector touchpoints and the galloping
acoustic guitar that the diminutive ginger Stuart Murdoch himself sits and
plays at the side of the stage – but they are condensed, oversaturated and
lacquered into, well, the stuff of a musical. That is: as soon as the
triumvirate female singers trot on, gorgeous and hideously talented, and launch
into ‘Act of the Apostle’ and ‘God Help the Girl’ itself, every unshaven
jumpered man in a ten-foot radius begins to dance and lip-synch with eyes
ecstatically shut. There’s high drama, high characterisation, and meowing,
girl-band call and response, even if the only prop in sight is the looming
white 100 behind them.

 

Despite StuMoch’s* swooning
instrumentation, and the best-laid plans of the players, these women – hush
soprano Alex Klobouk (pictured, below), sublimely honeyed Catherine Ireton, and
Celia Garcia, a sprite of sass – completely own the show. They sing with a mix
of giggly modesty and pure competence, gasping for air and dancing like a bold
new generation of Supremes, and it makes me so proud to be a chick. Ireton is a
china doll with a voice bursting with maturity: she barrels through the
incredible ‘Musicians, Please Take Heed’ with the kind of girl guts torn out of
everyone from Gloria Gaynor to France Gall. “Can you see the girls?” interjects
Murdoch. “Then you’ve got your money’s worth.” (Very droll, our dearest Mr
Indiepop Prodigy, but hearing them is the blessing.)

 

The set continues to feel a very special
candied treat for this 350-something strong crowd, as the band scroll through
all the album favourites like ‘I’ll Have to Dance With Cassie’, and mix in some
songs from the newer release, the Stills EP, such as the sweet serenade ‘The
Psychiatrist is In’; they even debut a special treat for the London crowd –
‘Saturday Night is the Loneliest Night of the Week’, and not the Rat Pack kind
either. They are as excited and reverent of the gig as the crowd is, with the
backing band being about 3 years absent from the stage, and the girls ever in
awe at the providence of the entire GHTG project, having been picked
competition-style to sing on the album. They are thrilled. For the final song,
‘Perfection as a Hipster’, Murdoch takes on the crooning male half of the
vocals (sung on the album by Neil Hannon of the Divine Comedy) as the girls
sashay and catcall “What happened? I want
to go home / Where am I? What have I got on?”
back at him.

 

Oh, bliss and satisfaction. Boys and a
sirens’ song. Belles and a Scottishman. Was there ever a band that sounded this
good? I cannot recall.

 

 

*The
author advises against using this term in front of approximately anyone.

 

 

 

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