Broadcast is uncharacteristically busy as we head downstairs for Moon Diagrams, who seems to be warming up somewhat.
The first few songs are taking a while to connect, some of the electronic drums seem a bit phoned in and tinny, but when the vocals are brought in the set seems to liven up.
Layers of vocals add depth and atmosphere, whilst the latter songs move in a welcome direction towards jazz and funk.
Definitely a set that improves as it goes on, Moon Diagrams sets the scene quite nicely for TOPS.
They don’t waste much time before getting on stage.
Opening with ‘Cutlass Cruiser’, the distinctive and effortless style of the band is conveyed immediately.
Although I never expected to comment on such a thing, I love the clothes that Jane Penny and Marta Cikojevic – the vocalist and keyboard player respectively – are wearing, it adds to the late seventies feel emanating from the band.
Penny admits to having “caught something” and that her “voice not being as good as I would like it for y’all”.
It is ever so slightly evident at the start of the set that the voice isn’t quite as sharp and powerful as it is on record, but it is not a problem for me and doesn’t seem to be one for the crowd.
In a situation that would cripple the enthusiasm of many bands, TOPS give nothing less than a wonderful performance, playing all of their big hitters and some of their lesser known works in a pleasing order – finishing with ‘Petals’, from their sensational new album.
The chemistry, commitment and clarity of direction the band has is as clear as day; this is likely what generates their unmistakable aura.
The song-writing and musicianship on display more than makes up for any health hitches.
When they leave the stage, the applause, whooping and hollering make the crowds eagerness for an encore difficult to ignore – so much so that the band scarcely has time to get off the stage before they come back on.
In a classy and seldom seen move, they decide to do covers for their encore.
They manage to get through two before Penny’s voice is well and truly finished with.
Still endeavouring to put on a good show, it is pushed to its capacity – breaking frequently; when it does crack, Penny, the rest of the band and the crowd laugh together.
The band members are all individually endearing, clearly audible and exceptionally talented.
Every now and then Penny plays the flute, which adds another welcome element to the wonderful sound.
On the whole, the set is exceptionally inviting and seemingly interactive; they make the crowd feel very welcome and respected, there is a palpable atmosphere in the room and it is all very lovely.
The guitarist – David Carriere – tells me that they played in Broadcast about three years ago and there were about five people in the crowd – they don’t have that problem this time, in fact I was surprised to be able to catch them on a stage so small, I doubt I will have that pleasure again – but I can’t wait to see them next time.
Words: Paul Aitken
Photos: Caitlin Macintyre