Live Review: Neon Waltz, Liverpool

Neon Waltz, Phase One Liverpool, 17 March

Words and Photographs: Gary Lambert

Do you ever have one of those gig nights full of surprise? I can honestly say I’ve rarely been caught out as much as I was when Neon Waltz played at Phase One in Liverpool. A Sunday night at an intimate gig usually means quite a toned down affair, but I had forgotten that everybody who had ever been in the same pub as a Guinness was celebrating St Patrick’s Day and as a consequence there were more than a few people wearing wacky headwear as they swayed through the venue’s doors. To be honest, I’d have thrown them out for zany behaviour but apparently that just makes me a grinch rather than a seeker of sartorial standards. Potato, tomato.

If I have ever wanted to provide gig goers with an example as to why they should turn up to gigs as early as possible and catch all the music they’ve paid for, then Gus Barreteau would be exactly the man to use. As soon as he started to sing there was a slight breeze in the room caused by everybody’s mouths dropping. His European accented voice was beautiful. The kind of sweet toned vocal which leaves you blinking like you’ve looked directly into the sun. Straight away I went looking for my phone as I assumed he must have been a touring artist over in the UK to support Neon Waltz. I was trying to work out how much of a big thing he was back at home. I was very surprised to find out that we were in his home. Although he is a French musician, he is based in Liverpool and was just the support for this one night. I was expecting at least 500,000 streams on Spotify, not <1,000 to be showing. I could not recommend listening to him any higher. Especially if you’re feeling the effects of moody skies and miserable weather as his voice contains all the serotonin you receive from feeling the effects of a late summer sunset by the beach.

That wasn’t the biggest shock of the night though. When Neon Waltz took to the stage, they were not the band I thought they were. I don’t know who I was getting them mixed up with, but if you are an all female electronic trio from London I apologise for not remembering your name from, I think, Kendal Calling a few years ago. I’d even walked past the lead singer on the street outside the venue earlier and remarked that he “looked like he’d be in a band”. I felt absolutely mortified and I had no clue about what kind of music would be coming next. What came next was absolutely fucking fantastic! I was absolutely blown away by the 55-minute set of Neon Waltz which in the best possible way left you wanting more. Their music sounded a wonderful cacophony of tradition, experimentation, and an unwillingness to stay inside the box. Every time I thought I had figured out Neon Waltz, they turned me upside down without sounding like a band searching for an identity. Their keyboard sound in particular flicked from driving riff to psychedelic swirls. My camera was quickly locked away, and I prowled around the venue taking in the band from all angles, engulfed in something new in the performance every time I moved spec.

It was a night of surprises, and the night I discovered a very special band.

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    Popped Music has been going since Feb 2010.

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