“Is there something we don’t know about?” question The Middle East to a silent Brighton Freebutt. With an audience as polite as royalty, the band are getting spooked - they’re not used to such reverence. Their music deserves it though - from lullabies to exhilarating hoe-downs, The Middle East play a collection of finely crafted and multi-faceted songs. With one female and two male lead vocalists and a huge variety of instrumentation that includes guitars, drums, banjo, flute, trumpet, mouth organ and accordion, their sound is certainly not one-dimensional.
This seven piece from Townsville, Australia face inevitable comparisons to other bands who trade in organic and acoustic instrumentation from Mumford and Sons, Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes to fellow Oz cohorts Angus and Julia Stone; there’s a distinctly alt. country / folk twang in their flowing unhurried sound, played with ability and homespun skill.
Highlights of the bands set include the evocative spoken-word Better Times, which tells the tale of a man coming back from the Vietnam War: “You were with another man and I was no hero.” It’s a particularly engrossing piece that draws the listener in with it’s lyrical tale before building into an avalanche of sound from its subtle beginnings. Another triumph is the radio hit Blood, a song that gradually rises into a crescendo of trumpet, whistling and harmonies whilst never over-stepping the mark. There’s nothing particularly new or innovative in what The Middle East do but what they do they do with hypnotising beauty.
The pin-drop silence in the room remains throughout - except the applause - both the band and the audience doing something right, at a preciously genuine show. The Middle East are affecting in a very unaffected way.
*This gig took place at the Brighton Freebutt which at the time of writing is under threat of closure by Brighton Council. Please visit the Freebutt blog here to find out the latest situation and sign the on line petition. The Freebutt is an important small venue in Brighton with a fantastic booking policy. It’s closure would be a travesty for the UK's south coast music scene and would also lead to the loss of 15 creative jobs in Brighton.