Gig review: Meadowlark at The Wardrobe, Leeds

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A few songs in at The Wardrobe in Leeds, Meadowlark’s frontwoman Kate McGill muses on the ad-hoc arrangement of dining-chairs lining the standing pit from behind her deck of keyboards.

“It’s all classically theatrical,” she demurs, asking the small audience to “go wild” rather than offering respectful silence.

It is a seating format that suits the Bristolian duo though; consisting of McGill and multi-instrumentalist Dan Broadley, their blend of wispy dream pop is so laid back, it is practically horizontal. “Going wild” isn’t something that should be on the cards, and mercifully isn’t.

With the pair’s debut LP impacting earlier in the year, this jaunt is the first full road-test of their new material. Though most of their tracks are painted in similar brushstrokes, McGill’s breathy upper-register tones gives each a lullaby-lite quality, hymnal and soothing other electro flourishes.

Paraffin, their slow-burning opener, is endemic of their output; its chilled synths burble under the mid-temp shuffle of Pink Heart, its minimalist club aesthetic pushed further by Body Lose. Satellite mixes gentle, woozy indietronica with fizzing, scattered drumbeats; paired with a starkly minimalistic stage design of a clutch of isolated lightbulbs raised upon microphone stands, it creates a meandering ambience both hushed and sleepily locked in second gear.

The second half is punctured with more standouts than the first, courtesy of Broadley’s eerie one-note guitar harmonies on the drippy That’s Life or his appropriation of the beat from The Ronettes’ Be My Baby on the muted Postcards.

A cover of Francis and the Lights’ May I Have This Dance is simple, yet beautifully stripped back in solo piano form; and Fly, the sort of baroque neo-folk ballad destined to soundtrack a John Lewis Christmas advertisement, even sees a handful of crowd members down the front accompany McGill on its chorus.

Meadowlark’s soft songcraft hits the notes needed live to take them to bigger places; but their lack of real musical dynamism could yet hamstring them going forward.

Nick Hodgson is to release his first solo album in January.

Music interview – Nick Hodgson: ‘I am essentially a musician – whether it’s playing Elland Road or playing some pub, I just love it’