Adam Green vs Midlake – Paradiso, Amsterdam – February 10, 2010

My brain was still with a guy who refused to grow up and I was confronted with a bunch of young men who’d grown up too quickly.

My brain was still with a guy who refused to grow up and I was confronted with a bunch of young men who’d grown up too quickly.

Timing is everything, or so comedians would have you believe. They may have a point. According to the official schedule, there should have been  no way for me to see Adam Green and Midlake tonight. They were supposed to be on at the same time. Thankfully though, as I wandered into the Paradiso it just so happened that Adam was beginning his set upstairs. Needless to say I legged it upstairs as fast as I could, excited about catching a glimpse of one of my favourite acts, essentially for free. I walked into the room grinning like a Cheshire cat and left the room almost an hour later with tears rolling down my face and my ribs aching from laughing so hard.


Adam was out of it. Seriously. How could I tell? Well it could have been the fact that he ran back and forth across the stage continuously for five or six songs in a row, without stopping. It could have been the fact that he didn’t blink for about twenty minutes. I may also have gotten the idea that his performance was a little ‘enhanced’ when he asked us all to listen to his advice on “yellow romance” (whatever that may be?) but to be honest I think what gave it away the most was the fact that he ate a box of magic mushrooms on stage in front of us.

“Here, eat one of these,” he said, throwing a limp piece of fungus into the crowd, “See how I feel!” I’m not sure if anybody took him up on the offer but the crowd were certainly willing to follow him wherever he felt like going. They even allowed him to crowd surf, which is quite a rare treat in the main hall of the Paradiso, never mind upstairs in the attic. In fact, Adam was even allowed to stand fully upright on the hands of some rather strong gentlemen in the crowd, a sight that I can honestly say I’ve never seen in the Kleine Zaal before. To sum it up, Adam’s show was fantastic and not just because he spent half the time bouncing around like a kid in a school sack race. You see, that’s the thing with Adam Green. He’s childish, he’s daft, he’s funny and he acts like he doesn’t take anything seriously and yet there’s a charm and an undeniable talent that shines through everything and, no matter what, he’s entertaining. The guy was born to be on stage. Even when he’s off his tits on mushrooms, he seems at home up there.

Of course, the reason you can easily forgive him for acting like an idiot is that, what really matters is taken care of. The tunes are great and that’s where the band come in. Those guys are fantastic, even if their equipment does tend to blow up on occasion. The music is fantastic and gives you something to hold onto while Adam does his thing. You see, Adam is a true entertainer. You simply can’t take your eyes off him. You could say that he’s not very professional but that would be doing him a disservice because even here, tonight, when he was so very obviously operating on another planet to the rest of us, he was still able to delve into his little bag of stage tricks and make sure he kept control of the crowd. Half way through the set, the band left the stage for a breather. Adam picked up his guitar, took about a week and half to tune it and, as he got himself ready to play, he noticed that people had started chatting amongst themselves. “Shh. Shh. Amsterdam. Dutch people. That’s the problem with Dutch people, their wooden shoes make too much noise.” A few people laughed, most people carried on talking.  Instead of shouting, Adam started strumming his guitar, very, very quietly. Then he started singing, or should I say mumbling quietly, eventually dropping his voice to a whisper and, within about 30 seconds, the room was silent.  He had them. Everyone. Then he went mental again. Clever stuff.

After a wonderfully daft Friends Of Mine with its non existent guitar solo – due to the fact that the guitar was being dismantled on stage- and a joyful Jessica “I can’t believe I had a hit with that!”  I bade farewell to Mr Green and his delightful entourage and crossed the landing into the main hall and although I’d only gone about 40 feet, I felt like I’d crossed into a parallel dimension.

I think it was the flutes that threw me. Yes, that’s right, flutes. As in plural. As in more than one. Now I’m all for showing off your talents but Tom McRae told me a few weeks ago that there was no room for flutes in music and I have to agree with him. It took me a while to wrap my head around Midlake. Well, you try wandering out of an Adam Green gig and into a Midlake one and see how you feel about it? From a room where you’ve just been laughing at an idiot bouncing around a stage pretending to be a rabbit to a room where you’re looking at a band with well tailored facial hair and not one but two members sitting down on stage playing flutes. I felt like I’d wandered into a slow Jethro Tull gig! My brain was still with a guy who refused to grow up and I was confronted with a bunch of young men who’d grown up too quickly. It was like jumping from Playschool to PHD level Chemistry in one step. The gap was simply too wide to jump in such a short time.

Let me make it clear though, Midlake were really good. Brilliant, in fact, but bloody hell were they serious. And polite too. Let’s not forget the fact that I had actually come here tonight to see them in the first place and I’m sure that if I had wandered into the venue later than I had, I would have been more than happy to give them my full attention. It’s just my initial plan had been  scuppered somewhat. I found myself feeling restless and getting quite frustrated with Midlake.  I don’t know if any of you have heard Midlake’s new album but it’s certainly not a floor  filler. Midlake operate at the introspective end of the songwriting spectrum and there’s a hell of a lot of navel gazing going on in their music and their sound. Don’t get me wrong, they’re brilliant at it and they create some wonderful stuff –  and the new album Courage of Others is well worth checking out, even if it is a bit morose – and they are fabulously talented musicians but tonight none of that mattered.

They sounded wonderful. Their playing was excellent. Winter Dies was astonishing, I’ll give them that and Roscoe was received with rapturous applause, as I’d hoped it would be, but my head was elsewhere and I couldn’t quite click with them tonight. The fact that one of them started playing a recorder at some point didn’t help much either because that made me feel like I was at an end of term school recital. It wasn’t Midlake’s fault, they did their jobs impressively, just ask the thousand or so people that cheered them throughout. It’s just that, despite being entertained from start to finish, I couldn’t help but think that my night had peaked a little too early.

Like I said at the beginning of this article, timing is everything and tonight, perhaps my timing was off somewhat. Or  maybe I just don’t want to grow up after all?