The Electric Soft Parade live at The Haunt, Brighton (4 Feb '12) // Words: Simon Opie
There’s something in the now customary live event of playing a classic album in its entirety. I’ve seen a few such gigs and they’ve always been good. But I can honestly say that this was a gig I’ll never forget. It was essentially to celebrate the 10th birthday of The Electric Soft Parade’s – at the time – quite remarkable 'Holes In The Wall' debut album, by playing it in its entirety.
I must admit it’s an album I liked a lot so I was looking forward to hearing it and the opening chords of 'Start Again' were reassuringly choppy and insistent. There was an undercurrent of tension on stage, which I put down to maybe nerves for the occasion. Pretty soon however Alex White kicked over the mic-stand and launched into a tirade about how bad the sound was.
Alex was obviously quite disturbed and it didn’t get any better. As the rest of the band attacked the album with relish – including an outstanding version of 'Silent To The Dark' – Alex sunk deeper into despair, finally sitting motionless at the keyboards holding his head in his hands. He came briefly to life towards the end of the set to introduce a track – perhaps 'This Given Line' – as ‘the shittiest song ever written’, which, lets face it, is a pretty bold claim.
By now brother Tom had run the gamut of emotions from bemused to irritation, then goading his sibling by playing the shunned keyboards from the other side of the stand. But to no avail – Alex simply announced this was his last ever gig and that he quit the band.
Meanwhile the rest of the stage was white hot and 'Why Do You Try So Hard To Hate Me' and 'Red Balloon For Me' were particularly hard edged. There was even time for guitarist Andrew Mitchell to celebrate his 30th birthday with a cake and candles (for which Alex remained stony faced, but we all sang).
Electric Soft Parade is very much the creation of the White brothers, but the live band is propelled by a classy rhythm section comprising drummer Damo Waters and long-time collaborator, bassist Matthew Twaites and they both gave their all despite, or perhaps because of, the highly charged atmosphere.
As the last notes rang out Alex stormed from the stage and he didn’t return except to take rather a long time packing up his kit – maybe savouring it for the last time. I came to really appreciate the album even more and was struck by how young they all were when it first came out 10 years ago.
Under the circumstances of touring and the relative success, it’s amazing they’re not all as crazy as Alex. Even then, it had been a spectacular performance of disintegration in real time, and as someone who has himself journeyed to the very edge of sanity and returned, I couldn’t help but feel sympathy.
Find more info at electricsoftparade.co.uk. Purchase 'Holes In The Wall' at Amazon.co.uk.