Swindon Arts Centre ‘Mini Residency’: 29th October - 1st November
Hidden away down a side street in the ‘old’ part of the town, Swindon Arts Centre doesn’t exactly look like your typical ‘noteworthy’ concert venue on first glance- or indeed any glance. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice venue, but on seeing the inconspicuous location of the building itself, as well as the intimacy of the auditorium on the inside, one can hardly believe that for four nights this week it is going to be home to some truly historic gigs involving members of one of the best bands of all time.
That band is XTC, and for founding members Colin Moulding and Terry Chambers (now performing under their new guise, TC&I), these gigs mark both a long-awaited end and a satisfactory new beginning.
The ‘end’ in question is that of an average XTC fan’s wait to see the band perform live in any form; they stopped touring in 1982, and none of the members have done any official gigs since the start of this four night run this week. The ‘beginning’, it seems, is that of TC&I’s hopefully fruitful and colourful musical journey- for both the band and fans alike.
Despite the fact these gigs are the first public performances for TC&I though, it certainly doesn’t sound like it. As sharp as Mr Moulding’s cheekbones in 1978, the band squared up to the (in the words of Moulding himself) “old XTC numbers” with ease, with tracks like ‘King For A Day’, ‘Life Begins At The Hop’, and ‘Say It’ all sounding as fresh as when they were originally released. Personal highlights for me were ‘Standing In For Joe’ (a gem of an album track hidden away on XTC’s album ‘Wasp Star’), laid-back, swinging renditions of ‘Grass’ and ‘Wonderland’ (taken from ‘Skylarking’ and ‘Mummer’ respectively), and ‘Kenny’ (a track from the debut release from TC&I, ‘Great Aspirations’) which shines just as brightly in the setlist as the XTC material.
As a whole, the 25-song setlist covered the majority of the ‘Great Aspirations’ EP, as well as almost every XTC album (a pretty amazing feat when you realise just how many they released), although did primarily focus on material from later in the band’s catalogue. If my reasoning is correct, this is understandable; the early albums in particular were fast-paced, aggressive and angsty (think minute-long songs at around 150 BPM) and whilst I’m sure there is no doubt TC&I and their band would have no trouble playing any number of these songs if necessary, it surely seemed more appropriate for them to play the more melodic, finely-tuned tracks as opposed to the rawer numbers considering the relaxed, easygoing atmosphere inside the venue.
And whilst we can say it was Moulding and Chambers that the majority of the audience came to see, the rest of the band- consisting of Steve Tilling on lead guitar, Gary Bamford on keyboards and guitar, and Lee Moulding on percussion and backing vocals- certainly added an extra level to this ‘atmosphere’.
Tilling’s flawless lead guitar lines and goofy flourishes provided the perfect countenance to Moulding’s rock solid, no-nonsense performance, whilst Bamford’s delicate keyboards and occasional extra guitar parts added a richness to the band’s sound. Lee Moulding spent most of the gig looking rather worried but there was really no need; his harmonies sat well with his Father’s lead vocals, and both were in very fine voice. Chambers meanwhile, though rather hidden away at the back of the stage behind his drum kit, was at the very core of the band, with that characteristically enormous drum sound holding everything together.
Essentially, TC&I do not disappoint. They have added a fresh page to XTC’s proverbial storybook, and it is as well-done, enjoyable, and delightfully low-key as one would expect.
For fans of XTC, it has been a long wait for live performances by members of the band in any form. But from their reaction to this gig (the second this week) there is obviously no doubt in their minds that the wait has been more than worth it.
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TC&I return to Swindon Arts Centre for two more sold out gigs on 18th and 20th November 2018.
Details of the setlist can be found here: https://www.setlist.fm/setlist/tcandi/2018/swindon-arts-centre-swindon-england-1b96052c.html
For more information about the band you can follow them on social media, or visit: https://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/tc-and-i