By Jake Paterson, Co-Deputy Music Editor
A quiet stoicism embedded itself within the figure of Cass McCombs, tracing the outline of a landscape that spanned psychedelia, indie rock and Americana. His tightly interwoven band followed his every breath, each exhalation trance-like and captivating.
Cass McCombs has forever touched on both the personal and mortal towards the absurd and political. His work is expansive in scale and simultaneously intimate, small and warm – his world-building caught not so much on places themselves but visions, imagined people and lived spheres of possibility. It’s his personal expanse that draws you in, lifts you by the scruff of the neck, and then drops you into a pool of soothing warm water.
In this vein, the way in which he warped the sense of time whilst inside the Redgrave Theatre was not altogether a surprise. With many tracks from his new record Heartmind pushing towards the ten-minute mark in the live setting, it was easy to be enveloped in his allure of sound.
Both ‘Unproud Warrior’ and ‘New Earth’ were cosmic, wide expanses of the considerations of mortality and the modern human condition without falling into pretentiousness. The hyper-specifics of the lyrics for both songs, opening ‘Unproud Warrior’ with “September 2nd 2017” frame his storytelling direct, whilst the existentialist within comes out in ‘New Earth’’s “Today’s the day after the last day on earth”. Pushed beyond notions of preconceived origin and our place in society, what do we make of ourselves?
It’s a heavy thought for a Monday night in Clifton, but one that the largely middle-aged hipster crowd have come to before, taking the empty space between songs to shout “Now that’s a great song”. To resonate with even the most entitled is no mean feat.
The career spanning set threw deep cuts throughout to allow moments otherwise passed by to shine, or to let his greatest hits transfix you all the more. ‘Bum Bum Bum’ was one of these moments, its refrain constructed so delicately by his band - who’s watertight musicianship was captivating in itself throughout - that it swelled in the mind. Opening the encore with his first single ‘Not the Way’ was another statement of intent, taking you selectively back into his personal expanse.
Credit must also been given duly to his support Kolumbo, who’s simultaneously wacky and transfixing set through lofi jazz was brought into McCombs’ set as the musician playing synth and keyboard with undeniable precision and elegance.
Though glittering, I did find myself in the whim of a daze through the set’s trance-like quality, brought back to consciousness serenely in the second half, the 90-minute set perhaps slightly too immersive to simultaneously recognise the self within it.
Closing with the euphoric and indie-infused ‘Crick in My Neck’, McCombs left the stage to a standing ovation, and, after ten albums, the title of one of the best songwriters of his generation.
Featured Image: Jake Paterson
Have you listened to Cass McCombs?