For the uninitiated (which, to be fair, was also me until a few days ago), Acoustic Ladyland are a bizarre and wonderful fusion of modern jazz and punk. An unusual combination, granted, but one that works incredibly well when undertaken by four musicians as talented as this lot.
Led by saxophonist and occasional vocalist Pete Wareham, and also featuring renowned and crazily talented drummer Seb Rochford (who has probably the biggest and best hair of anyone in the music business), this four-piece are a charismatic and likeable outfit, whose natural energy and musicianship filled the cosy confines of Guildford’s Boiler Room a hundred times over.
But to kick off the evening, we’re first treated to the relaxing pop reggae of Toy, and World Service Project – a group of incredible, adolescent jazz prodigies who made me feel old and untalented.
And so to the main attraction – playing a selection of tracks from latest album ‘Living With a Tiger’, as well as some older material, Acoustic Ladyland’s sound veered from complex jazz passages to dark, moody rock to awe-inspiring bursts of prog metal, with the occasional, glorious, virtuoso freak-out – all wrapped up in some fantastic riffs, such as ‘The Mighty Q’, and the infectious ska/rock chaos of ‘Have Another Go’.
This is where Acoustic Ladyland’s appeal lies – they can wig out as good as any band I’ve seen, but their songwriting and sense of musicianship keep things from becoming inaccessible. Any threat of things going too ‘Jazz Odyssey’ and proceedings are brought quickly back to earth with another fantastic hook or rhythm from any one of the four instruments.
In summary, here we have a band who are simultaneously raucous, intelligent and accessible, whose live performance is a genuinely exciting spectacle. The best live act I’ve seen in a long time – big up to them.
Words by Tristan Parker