Sean Nicholas Savage, Kelora at Glad Café, 7/3/18

Support band Kelora are creepily atmospheric, playing gothic lullabies at a somnambulant pace.

A repetitive drum machine ticks along like leaden footsteps up an old wooden staircase, their doomy songs wrapped in a thick fog of synthesizer and reverbed guitar.

 

The venue staff at the Glad appear to be under strict instruction to keep the trio bathed in blue light for the entire duration of their set.

But lest it all sound too dour, two of their members are dressed in shaggy onesies, making them look like pantomime extras having a cigarette break, while the third sports a jumpsuit and a sleepy expression – an air traffic controller on a particularly bad Monday morning.

The minimalism and ominous sense of space in Kelora’s music – somehow both agoraphobic and claustrophobic simultaneously – puts me in the mind of Young Marble Giants burning through the slower, organ-driven numbers on Colossal Youth.

There’s a wonderfully morbid theatricality to their performance, and the vocal hooks on tracks like ‘999’ and ‘BOY’ nestle deep in the eardrums for some time after Kelora depart the stage.

I saw Sean Nicholas Savage a few years ago, when he toured with a backing band.

At that show, he delivered his hazy, retrofuturistic soul music a little stiltedly, chained to a keyboard, but at the Glad Café tonight, I quickly realise there are to be no such frills.

Savage plugs his phone into a jack at the corner of an otherwise empty stage, and as the first of his backing tracks begins to play, the long-legged, Hawaiian-shirted balladeer starts swaying like a drunken palm tree, crooning in a beautifully, ridiculously high falsetto.

The Glad becomes a karaoke booth in some weird border town; the audience witnesses to Savage, as if drunk on tequila and heartbreak, pining for a lost future.

It’s all very surreal, but importantly, he isn’t trying too hard to be ironic – for the duration of the set, he seems to completely immersed in his own weird world.

Like Lewis on the ‘lost eighties’ album L’amour, Savage has mastered the vocal inflections and sonic mannerisms of a particular era of production; that of shimmering, synthesiser-driven blue-eyed soul.

Once I realise that it’s like watching Steve Buscemi at Club Silencio, I can’t get rid of the image.

Penultimate track ‘Other Life’ gets a strong reception from a crowd who, having warmed up to Savage’s initially bewildering dance moves, are now in full groove.

After the show, he chats with enthusiastic fans as he mans the merch table, approachable and with a smile.

His clearly personable nature is the cherry on the top of a brilliantly strange evening.

Words: Graham Gillespie

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