‘How does it feel to be one of the beautiful people?’
The Ghost Of A Sabre Tooth Tiger
Venue: Dingwalls, London
Sean Lennon's nu-psych project.
With all due respect, it’s not a question that often intrudes on Prog’s world, but stepping into Dingwalls tonight, there’s an air of this being the week’s Big Night Out for assorted musicians, models, artists and actors. We’d briefly forgotten that superstar progeny Sean Lennon is the frontman of the headliners tonight, and that’s probably why Noel Gallagher was behind us in the caff earlier. He’s joined here by, among others, blokey from Feeder, Prog faves Syd Arthur and a Winstone or two.
But star-studded audience aside, and with former Spacemen 3 man Sterling Roswell having already plugged in and intergalactically rocked out (more psychedelic power pop these days than membrane-scything Stooges-rock), it’s a politely excited, slightly awestruck crowd that welcomes the NYC sextet.
Prog finds a space on the side balcony next to Kat Slater from EastEnders (yes, really), then the GOASTT file on like shy teenagers, sliding into the serpentine groove of single Too Deep, the portal to latest album Midnight Sun.
With nu-psychedelia the latest wrinkle in rock, the band pull the sound off well, taking Lennon’s DNA and siphoning it through four decades of kaleidoscopic reincarnation, from Floyd to Rain Parade, Money Mark to Tame Impala via tales of aliens, unicorns and kidnapped oil heirs.
A crack team of Robbie Mangano on guitar/vocals, Jared Samuel on keys, a Ringo-ish Tim Kuhl on drums and Connor Grant on percussion show no rockstar arrogance, and although the PA could be louder (or maybe we’re getting more deaf), they’re at their best when they hit sonic overdrive (on Midnight Sun, Devil You Know and Gandalf cover Golden Earrings, Mangano lets loose some brilliantly filthy lead licks). We’d love to see this lot teamed up with Bigelf for a psychedelic rock-off.
To Lennon’s right is his long-term partner, bassist, model and co-conspirator Charlotte Kemp Muhl. Fabulous to look at as a couple with their shaggy, hippie elegance, topped off with wide-brimmed hats (Lennon has fitted a macaw feather into his especially for the occasion), it’s this romance, this playful pairing, that is the beating heart of the Tiger.
Muhl is no mere decoration, lending lyrics, soft, high harmonies and dexterity on the Mellotron, underlining charming oddities such as Animals, the Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg-like Johannesburg and Jardin Du Luxembourg. Together they seem grounded, content and confident enough to show their sweet’n’silly sunshine psychpop to the world.
As Lennon thanks us and declares this was their coolest UK tour yet, it’s a superbly heavy, sonorous version of Syd Barrett’s _Long Gone _to finish – and even the industry tourists are with ’em to the end.