In case you didn’t know, I Am Kloot are from Manchester. “It rains a lot, which we needn’t tell you ‘cause you’ve probably heard us going on about it at bus stops,” quips frontman John Bramwell as he welcomes the packed Barbican.
This quirky trio, all of whom are in their forties, have been trudging the path to musical accolade for a decade. A nomination for the Mercury Music Prize in 2010 with ‘Sky At Night’ finally bestowed some mainstream success upon them: this is their first sold-out tour. Thanking those who have been there from the start, Bramwell powers into ‘Northern Skies’ with newfound triumphant confidence.
Revelling in the witty interjections of northern banter from fans, I Am Kloot are a refreshingly rough around the edges outfit. Seedy red lighting complements slurred vocals on latest album opener ‘Bullets’ as, oozing booze from every musical pore, the band teases towards the sleazy climax of Peter Jobson’s blasting guitar solo.
Cleverly distilled and endearing in its Beatles-esque simplicity, ‘Shoeless’ from new record ‘Let It All In’ was written for Bramwell’s daughter. His gritty but guileless sensitivity shines with the conviction that ballsy Mancunian song-writing has no need for superficial dressing-up.
An accordion adds a charming, buskerish feel to ‘Let Them All In’ as Bramwell oils his raspy vocals with a well-deserved pint. Bold trombone introduces ‘Some Better Day’, a slice of surburban disenchantment that epitomises Kloot’s mastery of the down ‘n’ out.
As the stage turns a shade of moody blue, Bramwell howls the first line of ‘Hold Back The Night’, before violins, oboes and guitars carry his gravelly vocals towards a flamboyant finish. Both this and the bluesy ‘Lately’ see Kloot strike a rarely-achieved balance between moments of understated poise and flashes of a more uninhibited intensity.
His ego sufficiently massaged by calls of “I love you more than mushy peas Johnny,” Bramwell enters into a stripped-back solo interlude. Casting the familiar figure of a lone man and his guitar, he presents throw-back classic ‘No Fear Of Falling’ to new fans as a song about an old flame who encouraged him not to give up on music. She’s called Claire and she’s in the audience tonight. Cue an en-masse, and frankly a tad awkward, “Thank you Claire!” that likely had the poor woman blushing.
Harking back to a sense of teenage isolation, ‘Mouth On Me’ is about feeling lonely for not quite fitting in, while ‘To The Brink’ evokes the carousel music of a dusty fairground. Bramwell croons “I would like to stay with you” so convincingly and with such honest warmth that many would find it tricky to say no.
The thumping drums of ‘Radiation’ shift the set to up-tempo mode before crowd-pleaser ‘Proof’ incites a gloriously off-key sing-along. Leaving the stage to whistles and heckles for “more”, Kloot briefly return to round off proceedings with the violin-peppered ‘These Days Are Mine’.
Up come the lights as they bid their farewells with humble gratitude, a standing ovation confirming our oh-so-British admiration for an underdog come good.
Words by Jess Denham
Photos by Richard Gray