The Album Leaf @ La Boîte

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1 mars 2010, 4h31m

The last time I saw The Album Leaf perform, a little over seven years ago at China Teatern in Stockholm, Jimmy LaValle had the honor of opening for the otherworldly Sigur Rós. Unknown to me up until a few days before the concert and overshadowed by the excellence of the headliners, he didn't make the strongest impression in the live setting then, but nevertheless went on to provide the soundtrack for many of my college cram sessions, either with his old band Tristeza or with this, his long-lived solo project. Later during that tour, he performed at La Riviera here in Madrid, his last appearance in the city before Friday's concert at La Boîte, a far smaller and more intimate venue, much better suited to the band's ambient brand of indie rock.

To the disappointment of many, Belgian indietronica act The Go Find will not join The Album Leaf's European tour until Wednesday's show in Milan, leaving the Iberian dates of the tour without an opening act. Instead, Jimmy had to rely on his four-man live band to vitalize the audience. The four provided a welcome addition to The Album Leaf's minimal 2003 live incarnation, most of the time adding chorus, guitar, bass, drums and violin to his electric piano and vocals, but also making use of a large array of additional keyboard instruments. This left the the ample two-level stage almost filled to capacity, a state reflected by the venue itself, almost at its limit of 300. And for once, I managed to make a solid contribution in bringing six friends along.

The generous 18-song set started out with the first half of his new album A Chorus of Storytellers played in sequence, an album from which we would hear ten songs in total, all but the abstract Summer Fog. While I still prefer his 2001 instrumental album One Day I'll Be on Time, this most recent full-length is definitely growing on me. The ominous opening Perro reminded me of both Moving Mountains' Aphelion and the chant-like vocals of the amazing San Solomon by Balmorhea, the protagonists of October's much-anticipated highlight. Blank Pages continued in the somewhat gloomy tone for a few minutes before erupting in a cloud of IDM-infused sparkles - and I was already sold. As in his recordings, Jimmy uses his voice rather sparsely during concerts, for which I am often grateful, since it doesn't quite match the quality of his music. Yet, the repeated chorus of Falling From the Sun is a brilliant example of a song that perfectly fits his voice and is properly enhanced by it. The wonderful Stand Still then wrapped up the first part of the performance, after which Jimmy with mixed success tried to fill an involuntarily long break with banter. Announcing to my delight that some older songs would follow, he continued to lead the band into The MP and Another Day, two of my favorite songs of his.


Photo courtesy of [musicazul]

The Album Leaf tends to lull me into a daze with its groove-oriented instrumental rock, something experienced by most during the hour-and-a-half-long set. A holiday-inspired lighting system, consisting of a set of short rods of multi-colored lamps, as well as some rather interesting video projections did their part in keeping the crowd alert, but I found myself particularly thankful for the songs accompanied by intricate electronic beats, such as The Outer Banks. Standing out were also songs like Until the Last, where the full strength of the live band was employed.

After the customary pretend exit, the visually complemented single Always For You from 2006's Into The Blue Again drew the biggest applause of the evening. Red-Eye and Tied Knots completed the encore, leaving me without my two absolute favorites Story Board and Asleep, but too content to really be disappointed - after all, one can't expect to hear many songs from a nine-year-old album. Instead, I headed out with a smile on my face, carrying a nice hand-printed tour poster, eagerly anticipating my third time seeing Jimmy live.

Setlist:
01. Perro
02. Blank Pages
03. There Is a Wind
04. Within Dreams
05. Falling From the Sun
06. Stand Still
07. The MP
08. Another Day
09. Twentytwofourteen
10. The Outer Banks
11. Shine
12. Until the Last
13. We Are
14. Almost There
15. Wherever I Go
--
16. Always For You
17. Red-Eye
18. Tied Knots

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