Midlake’s comeback in Paris, the Antiphon Tour: Midlake Without the Icing On the Cake?
November 2012, Tim Smith, leader of Midlake, the American folk rock band from Denton, Texas, leaves the band. Bollocks.
6 months later, the album Antiphon came out, and Midlake set out on tour without a key member. Yes dears, the loss is considerable but it is not heart-wrenching either, as Midlake gave a perfect performance last month at Le Trianon in Paris. Facts remain that the room was not full and some fans feel the band is not the same as prior to the loss (well obviously), but walking down the Boulevard de Rochechouart, fearful but quivering with warm excitement against the cold Paris wind, I started thinking about the band’s new album and felt a rush of anger towards the judgmental people full of animosity against bands who evolve and create something different. We should just embrace it, and let’s face it, there is nothing we can do about it. What gives us the right to disapprove of someone’s new musical creation? Are we almighty gods with superior knowledge that we can allow ourselves to criticize man’s creativity and imagination? Is that something we would want to control?
Glowing with slightly protective feelings towards Eric Pulido, McKenzie Smith, Paul Alexander, Eric Nichelson, Jesse Chandler, Joey McClellan, and the rest of the clan, and thinking about how Eric Pulido stepping up from being backing vocals and guitarist to manning the front of the stage, I wondered what it would be like to walk on stage with a limb missing after 13 years of playing together. But they have no need for a prosthetic leg as they walk on stage, maybe slightly nervous, but certainly not stumbling. The English in me admired this awkward bravery.
So what icing? Midlake is a great cake. The icing was their performance. They started off with dead-on bolshy chords, thundering drums, followed by angelic harmonies. All I can say is that to find out if Midlake are still the Midlake you had to be there, though I can confirm suspicions that the band is keeping up the good work. Midlake is a band whose musical genius demands respect. The rest is up to personal taste, but there is no denying the talent. The concert was unpretentious with a simple layout, full of agreeable people, “The Old And The Young” (see what I did there? It’s the name of one of their songs off the album Antiphon). We were just there for the music. Lovely. I was standing right at the front, my eyes were locked on the guitar rack in front of me, where beautiful folk guitars sat waiting to be picked up and played during the show. My imagination went haywire in the haze of things, and suddenly the guitar rack and guitar morphed into a large rock with a sword stuck in. Be it a sort of Excalibur sword analogy, only a highly talented musician willing to play his best performance and deliver a great show would be able to draw out the guitar from the rack. After a few beers, that’s the way I saw it.
Their show was solid. Not only did they play most of Antiphon, showing how they would bring their music through with them to their new chapter, they also played some songs from their hugely successful album The Trials Of Van Occupanther (released in 2006). The first few rows went ballistic with excitement; maybe the back of the crowd was too stunned to realize what was going on. We were all secretly praying they would play their old hits! Could they feel how much we needed them to play those songs that made us fall in love with them?
Lips open, jaws a little sideways, eyes narrowing, ears pricking up, whistling and clapping in the crowd, the euphoria was palpable. Happily surprised, I closed my eyes and listened to them play “Young Bride,” and then later, “Roscoe,” and at the encore, “Head Home.” I could have fainted. Eric’s voice is soft and deep; there is something rather religious about it sometimes, to the point of being celestial when the band harmonizes together. They didn’t study musicology for nothing. Knowledge not wasted. The lyrics are often themed around nature as well, no “call me on my cell” or “get in my car and listen to the radio.” No, it’s all about harvest, reading Leviathan, three hundred years ago – How surprisingly refreshing! And let’s not forget the impressive songs from Antiphon: “Antiphon,” It’s Going Down,” and “The Old And The Young” were ear candy too. The initial disappointment of buying a ticket to their show and then realizing that one of the main members was no longer part of the band disappeared when they struck the first chord. All those fears evaporated. All in all, it was definitely not a let down, and not only did I find the old Midlake spirit in them (not forgotten!), but I also found a new one too.
Overall, the combination was a very pleasing sensation. Highlights included: Jesse Chandler playing the flute like a quirky angel, and Eric Pulido singing his heart out but singing it out in absolute perfection and meeting fans by the merch table after the concert. Not only did they sign my Aristotle book that I was trying to avoid reading anyway, they were also really communicative and generally what you would expect – all-around nice guys. We chatted about Stefan Zweig with Jesse a little and got a couple of autographs. After, we had a quick chat with the support band Israel Nash, buddies of Midlake who weren’t just chosen for their long hair. They oozed talent all over the place. Israel’s guitar sounds like a singing drumkit, while the other half of the band creates a beautiful electronic sound that flows nicely through the room. Israel manages to charm you with pretty lyrics and then lets out is lion roar that leaves your ears ringing with critiques of society, so not only great rock indie melodies but also an important message there that left us all to reflect on some aspects of our surroundings. Israel Nash is definitely worth checking out. They happen to have just released a new album and after hearing a few songs from it, it’s a must-have. They are currently on tour with Midlake, and will play a series of shows in the US as well as Europe and Australia.
Leaving the concert hall where I had felt so full of satisfaction, of musical joy, I then felt drained and exhausted. A Midlake concert is certainly not an opportunity to be missed. I fell asleep with the Antiphon album artwork ingrained in my mind and a smile on my face.