Eight years ago someone said “have you heard that cover of Hounds of Love?” and I prepared to slink into a corner, rocking while I clutched a copy of Wuthering Heights and played Kate Bush albums on repeat. I was prepared to be horrified but instead was utterly charmed and surprised by The Futureheads. Any band that can cover an artist without causing offense to the well cherished original gain my respect.
New arrangements of their own material such as Decent Days and Nights, Carnival Kids, The Beginning of the Twist removed any element of the frantic indie sound. At times a Cappella and for others the Cello, Mandolin and Banjo were skilfully plucked and bowed. Insanely clever new arrangements.
The Futureheads have taken their quirky knack of twisting, moulding, tweaking and sculpting tracks to a level of rare musical genius. Not for them the easy option of covering Arcade Fire in the style of….. Arcade Fire. Instead the wide eyed audience perched in the chapel pews were challenged to enjoy tracks by Kelis (Acapella, the track that inspired their latest album Rant) and Black Eyed Peas (Meet Me Halfway).
For the musical snobs out there (and if you’re reading this shame on you) tracks like Television Personalities ‘A Picture of Dorian Gray’, sea shanty Hanging Johnny and the oldest known song in English Language ‘Summer Is Icumen In‘.
For this latter track and recent single of Sparks’ ‘The No.1 Song In Heaven’ they were joined by support act The Cornshed Sisters and a choir which added gravitas and grandeur, every note reaching up the rafters and floating through the church, warming my cockles that were rather chilly in that old stone building. Union Chapel is a rare gem of a venue, something about being in a church makes people truly listen.
My ears wide open to every accented lyric, plucking out the sad drone of the cello over the twang of a banjo. Their melodies and harmonies were pitch perfect, like a vintage barbershop quartet or professional choir, but with wit, gusto and that enchanting Sunderland lilt.
I fear you cynics may think this all sounds extremely highbrow but let me wholeheartedly assure you that it wasn’t. There wasn’t a whiff of pretentions or ego at the alter last night. The Futureheads were hysterically funny, genuinely warm, and jovial and I sense that in their very bones they want to be together performing Rant and are rightly proud of it. I have seen too many bands who begrudgingly take to the stage who look like they wouldn’t piss on one another if they caught on fire recently.
Please don’t ask me under what circumstances, but I recently heard Will.I.Am say he was “looking for the future radio” and I genuinely think The Futureheads have stumbled on a unique formula with this a Cappella offering, they’ve carved out a niche that I can’t envisage anyone else managing to pull off. Gushing over. Peace Out.
Fact: A Cappella is Italian for “in the manner of the chapel” so it was brilliantly fitting to see them perform in this way inside of one.