Howe Gelb and friends

Last night I went to see Howe Gelb and friends at the Barbican. I'd seen his similar "do" back in 2001 and this time around it never really seemed to get going like it had back then, I think mostly because the "friends" weren't really given the free reign that the 2001 friends had been given. All of the women were duetting with Howe whereas the (mostly) men from 2001 were given more room to do their own thing.

I could live without seeing the (not very) The Handsome Family again because I found their tiresome, "funny" americana mostly tiresome and not that funny. Isobel Campbell never really seemed to get the chance to get involved. Mary Margaret O'Hara was interesting and funny and behaved and looked like a drunken auntie (thanks Staurt for that description). And most of the rest was just a wash of a little too gentle and a little too fractured and a little too dull and a little to samey.

Now maybe it's because I don't often get to see the feet of performers but I was mostly taken by the inappropriate, uncomfortable (looking) or just plain silly footwear that most of the women chose to wear. Henriette Sennevaldt wore scary looking high heels. Emiliana Torrini wore these high-heeled frilly (I think) grey boots that made her look like she was going to lose her balance at any time. Mary Margaret O'Hara wore drunken auntie footwear - little strappy heels. Isobel Campbell had some fancy high-heels on as well. The problem I guess is that in my world of indie-pop (or at least in my imaginary ideal world of indie-pop) all the girls wear Dr Martens or other similarly sensible shoes so seeing such a range of very VERY girly footwear was just a little distracting - but then a distraction was probably what I needed.

I didn't mention Lonna Kelley who was the first of Howe's friends (not counting John Parish - who sadly never got to do his own thing). She was probably the highlight of the evening with a lovely cracked voice that suited so well its duet with Howe. I also didn't notice her shoes but suspect that they were of the comfortable and sensible kind.

Last time round the line-up was a little more varied - John Parish did a great mid section that was so wonderfully at odds with the rest of the set - and Mark Linkous (Sparklehorse) was superb and dueted with PJ Harvey on Homecoming Queen which reminded me how much I loved both of them, and even Evan Dando reminded me how enjoyable he was capable of being.

I first saw Howe with Giant Sand at the Mean Fiddler (Harlesden version) so many years ago it scares me - he had a phenomenal amount of hair back then. Last night when he turned his back on the audience and under those lights you could see the bald patch pushing through - welcome to the club Howe.

Howe Gelb with hair