Stalking Horse, I Like Trains – Sugar Factory, Amsterdam 30/10/11

What else? Oh yes, Voice of Reason was dedicated to the late citizen of Leeds and deejay extraordinaire Jimmy Saville, a tribute that left most Dutch people bemused



Incendiary have never really liked the Sugar Factory, it’s always felt a little cold and foreboding; maybe it’s because of that weird stage where you can see the stairs and the gantry behind it; the set up suggests the studio for a chat show where the viewer can see the guest star walk towards the interview sofa. I know that this dislike is a personal thing but I have to admit it’s always unnerved me. Luckily the Halloween nonsense we are all meant to celebrate nowadays meant that the interior was pretty well draped in sheets and fake cobwebs, giving a suitably Gothic setting for the Trains.

But first a few words about the support Stalking Horse who are a young band from Leeds on the Trains’ own label. Any cynical thoughts we may have had about them being makeweights were pretty quickly dispensed, as on this showing they are an interesting band. They do have a sound that is pretty popular nowadays, there are nods to that stoic, “big horizon” stuff that the War on Drugs have made popular, I also got the impression that they’re still feeling their way in negotiating a sonic tightrope between bombast and bedsit reflections, but their music at its best was rich, carefully thought out and intelligent. The singer lad kept stamping his foot which was a bit disconcerting (that’s minus 5 Mike Scott points) and the stage props (‘70s lampshade & table) did trigger slightly queasy mental flashbacks of Tales of the Unexpected, but fine. We liked them sufficiently to buy the single, and we suggest you have a listen.



A short break then time then for the Trains, who are quietly and steadily turning into a classic band.  Whatever anyone may think of their music, there’s something incredibly impressive in the way that they quietly present it; which is patiently and without fuss. Admittedly their oeuvre isn’t for the vapid thrill seekers amongst you; (unless you get off on sagas laced with doubt, death & despair) but their music can become hypnotic live, you always notice people swaying or moving with gentle, undulating motions, almost physically taking the emotional load of tracks like Spencer Percival (a deserved and manic encore) or the magnificent and soaring When We Were Kings which was one of this particular gig’s highlights.

The fact that they’ve now have an impressive body of work behind them also allows more light and shade into their set. One of the reasons we never really dug them first time around was the fact that you never felt there was much room to manoeuvre mentally or emotionally, especially when seeing them live - but the two or three new tracks played were lighter and more sinuous than anything the last LP, though patently developing that record’s template. They seem to be developing a crystalline, tessellate style for their epic story telling - which is all for the good, we say.  

What else? Oh yes, Voice of Reason was dedicated to the late citizen of Leeds and deejay extraordinaire Jimmy Saville, a tribute that left most Dutch people bemused and it does seem a bit daft that the new Train lad looks a bit like a bit part player drafted in at the last minute from the streets of Pudsey – something which his playing doesn’t deserve. But let’s not quibble: stuff like Sirens, We Saw the Deep and Sea of Regrets were marvellous on the night as was A Rook House For Bobby. 

A fairly epic night all round.


Pics: Courtesy of Carmel McNamara