What with lockdown, rising production costs, rampant inflation, Brexit red tape, and often dwindling audience figures, the UK’s live music industry has really taken a hammering over the last few years. And it is the smaller grassroots venues and those who work in, or for them that have been disproportionately impacted by all of these adverse factors.
Anna Meredith is acutely aware of the difficulties being faced by the industry. Speaking to the Yorkshire Post earlier this week, the Scottish composer and musician said, “it’s been heartbreaking to see venues have shut or can’t keep going. So full respect and credit to any venues and initiatives that are trying to keep afloat and doing interesting stuff.”
One such venue is The Crescent in York and Anna Meredith is appearing here tonight as part of not only a short tour but also the UK’s Independent Venue Week. “Probably one of the last sets of gigs we’re going to be doing for a while, while I’m writing a new album”, she had said in the same interview. Meredith also indicated that the setlist on these dates would be drawn from her first two studio albums, Varmints (2016) and Fibs (2019), “wrapping up that kind of era”.
York is a city with which Anna Meredith is most familiar. Before going to the prestigious Royal College of Music in London where she was made a junior fellow at the age of 24, Meredith studied music at the University of York in the late ‘90s, graduating from there with a first-class honours degree. She is clearly very happy to be back at the home of her alma mater.
Anna Meredith and her incredible band – Hanna Mbuya (tuba), Sam Wilson (drums), Jack Ross (guitar), and Maddie Cutter (cello) – clearly aren’t hanging around tonight. They launch straight into ‘Sawbones’, a furious rat-a-tat flurry of relentless synth beats that metamorphose into something altogether more prog-rock, something that might not have been entirely out of place on an early King Crimson album.
And once that blue touch paper has been lit, the rest just explodes into life. It is wild untrammelled fun, a switchback ride that occasionally nods towards Meredith’s classical training but more often than not finds itself immersed in a far heavier, pop-laden electronic groove. ‘The Vapours’ is a death-defying, untamed maelstrom of sound that just seems to hurtle out of the ether. And ‘Something Helpful’ is most certainly that, enabling the packed crowd to find another pair of dancing shoes having already worn out their first.
‘Paramour’ is a colossus, a gigantic beast full of rich rhythmic goodness. It is a thrilling way in which to end the show though there is still time left for Anna Meredith’s customary valediction by way of a cover. Tonight it is a riotous reading of Elton John’s ‘I’m Still Standing’ which just for good measure haemorrhages straight into another of his songs, ‘Tiny Dancer’. An incredible finale to an incredible evening and if this is to be the last hurrah for some of that material from Meredith’s first two albums, then it was most certainly one helluva way in which to sign off.
Photos: Simon Godley
More photos from Anna Meredith at The Crescent in York are HERE