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Tilly And The Wall, London

The little fella standing at the bar could probably tell you a thing or two about storytelling. Conor Oberst may have come to Brixton in his role as the head of Team Love records to cast an eye over his star signings, Tilly And The Wall, but he still recognises a good yarn when he hears one. Directly after The Albemarle House’s set of instinctive, Nick Cave-ian melodrama, Oberst’s telling their clearly shocked singer Jason just how great their songs are. And during Money Can’t Buy Music’s storytelling electronica, he’s…actually, what must he think?

Gordon McIntyre, best known as the singer with indie darlings Ballboy, is obsessed with old ladies. He peppers his performance as Money Can’t Buy Music with tales of buses full of pensioners and a granny passing a barbed comment outside an Edinburgh department store, his voice rich with bemused affection. He’s clearly a man for the small details in life, and his songs colour in the background with reflective electronics, all intricate surges and quiet emotion. Often side projects like this are exercises in technology, but this is straight from the heart.

Just when you think you’ve seen it all, along come Tilly And The Wall. On paper, their USP sounds like a gimmick – instead of having a drummer, percussion is provided by tapdancer Jamie – but live the tapdancing tells a story of its own. It takes precisely thirty seconds of their opening song, “Fell Down The Stairs”, to realise that this is an extremely physical group. If they weren’t tapdancing, they’d be clapping, stamping their feet, fingerclicking, just doing whatever they could to transform the joy at the heart of their music into something more tangible.

In this respect, therefore, the tapdancing is closer to gospel than Broadway. It’s no coincidence that the band they most resemble in spirit – the Hidden Cameras – have (quasi or otherwise) religious overtones. A song like “Reckless” – “You’re on fire/they’re throwing punches” – is charged with we-will-overcome fervour, the band harmonising like their places in the hereafter depended upon it, the tapdancing almost like the steady march of a church band. There’s no room for the tired or jaded around this lot – Tilly are here to sweep you off your feet.

Too much theorising could cloud the crucial point about Tilly And The Wall, however: they’re unstoppable, unquenchable, irresistible, infectious fun. The three front girls – Jamie, singer Neely Jenkins, and tattooed singer/bassist Kianna Alarid – click into “UP!” mode as soon as they decide the show has begun, and from then on it’s simply a case of the audience rushing to keep pace. Exactly how long our love affair will last – just ask the Polyphonic Spree, Hidden Cameras, et al – is another matter, of course, but right now this is the happiest show in town.

Ian Watson


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