A sore throat, car crash in the snow and BA losing all his luggage can’t stop Midlake’s Eric Pulido from giving a packed Slaughtered Lamb a wonderful blend of stripped down music and chat.
Not only do we get his travelling tales, but Pulido announcs that Midlake’s fourth album is almost complete and will be out later this year. Apologising for its lateness and "not even having John Grant as an excuse this time," Pulido says it’s a new sound, with more keyboards "but not Kraftwerk." Exciting!
But back to the gig - the last night of his solo tour presented by Pull Up The Roots is such a treat. Midlake’s chief harmoniser and guitarist is joined by the band’s keyboardist and other guitarist Eric Nichelson and, while there aren’t any special guests this eve (his last Slaughtered Lamb gig in September 2012 featured John Grant and Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle), the night is rich with beautiful songs. The gem here is hearing Midlake classics – ‘Young Bride’, ‘We Gathered In Spring’, ‘Head Home’, ‘Roscoe’ – stripped to their barest bones and with just one vocal. It really emphasises the great song-writing and, most of all, Pulido's soothing voice. He’s usually overshadowed by the ever-frowning Tim Smith, but tonight it’s all about Pulido. Good!
The Lamb is bursting with dedicated Midlake fans - there are closed eyes and nodding heads all over the place – and it’s a rare and wonderful opportunity for all of us to hear new versions of the songs we love, but also the songs that have shaped Pulido’s own musical career and even some "shitty ones of my own."
He starts with Loudon Wainwright III’s ‘One Man Guy’, often performed by son Rufus and Teddy Thompson, before an early Midlake number, ‘Balloon Maker’ from 2004’s 'Bamnan And Slivercork', and one of his own songs. A cover from '70s folk artist Bob Carpenter is just so pretty and ‘We Gathered In Spring’ almost sounds like a different song without the rest of his band. It’s really lovely and it’s a wonder why Smith always gets the lead vocals when Pulido’s voice is so full and rich.
John Grant is obviously close to Midlake (they pretty much saved him and encouraged him to start recording again, playing on his solo debut 'Queen Of Denmark') and Pulido in particular. "John lived with me for a year. It was like having a roommate, a brother and a child all in one," he says. What a nice chap. It’s very special and you can tell there’s a lot of love between these guys.
‘Fortune’ from Midlake’s last album, 'The Courage Of Others', is just as sweet, although it’s clear Pulido is more of a fan of 'Van Occupanther', while tears for a cover of Nilsson’s ‘Without You’ coupled with a few words about missing his wife are dried by an invitation to the pub in hometown Denton, Texas. We’re all going – the whole place. How could we resist?
Words by Gemma Hampson