Allo Darlin’ – Heaven, London – 19 April 2012

Written for the Music Fix.

Allo Darlin’ is a band without airs and graces, from the simple humanity of their lyrics to the twee conventionality of their arrangements. What’s surprisingly refreshing about them is that despite the immediate familiarity of their output, the quartet, equal parts Australian and Kentish, produces music which pretty consistently avoids cliché. On stage at Heaven, it was difficult not to focus on the Aussie half, a pair of characters whose performances channelled two distinctive aspects of their work respectively.

Ukulele-toting Elizabeth Morris’s singing was pristine throughout; the wistful air she brought to the reverb-heavy arrangement of ‘Europe’ evoked the balladry of Camera Obscura. There wasn’t a hint of melancholy on the most memorable of the new songs, although a certain feeling of longing remained: shot through with hopeful sentiment, her barely accompanied, hushed delivery of ‘Some People Say’ brought a genuine sense of intimacy to a quickly silenced room.

The band’s easy affinity with the crowd was equally facilitated by Bill Botting, whose irrepressibly physical performance offset the more reflective moments with sheer enthusiasm, subverting the stereotype of the bassist as a nigh-on-imperceptible character who hugs the shadowy regions of the stage. From the beginning of ‘Neil Armstrong’, which also opens their new album, he ignored how young the night was, pogoing with abandon at Morris’ right hand. His voice made a secure impression too, both as a falsetto backing on recent single ‘Darren’ and as the luxurious baritone lead vocal of ‘Dreaming’.

In a setlist which drew more from forthcoming second album Europe than any other source, it was inevitable that familiar older songs would provide the highlights. ‘If Loneliness Was Art’ brought sixties girl pop to mind with its recognisable riff, tambourine and “sha-la-la”s, before the band’s two central facets – of pensiveness and partying – were most completely intertwined on lively ‘Silver Dollars’.

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