Lou looked me directly in the eyes and sang “we fall in love”. I believed. This was the second time I had seen Lamb perform this year. Both times in Berlin.

The first was at Astra Kulturhaus on October 5th. That day, storm Xavier paid the city a visit. It hadn’t seemed so bad during the day nor when the storm hit. I had been teaching that afternoon and, yes, during the lesson, outside it was windy, but it hadn’t seemed so bad. I had also walked to the Ubahn nearby with little difficulty. Returning home, I found my street closed by the police. It seems roof tiles had been falling. I went around the block and was able to get home from the other direction. Inside, there was no evidence of the storm, and again, although it appeared windy outside, nothing so bad.

By the time I was going to the concert, the S-bahn was no longer running – trees down on the line. Similarly regional trains had been cancelled. In the city itself, all the U-bahns with parts above ground were not running, nor were buses and trams. Getting to the concert, was not easy. U-bahn part of the way, and a good half hour walk the rest. By this time, the storm had done its worst, and there was little wind to speak of. Walking, however, was hindered by the fallen trees and branches. The main roads were blocked by traffic with only slow movement. It must have been frustrating getting anywhere in a car that evening.

The concert went ahead, although many disappointed fans couldn’t make it there. It was amazing. I was in the third row towards the left of the stage. The concert was the whole of their first album, followed by around an hour or so of other songs, including those of their most recent album, Backspace Unwind (2014). Lou Rhodes radiated warmth from the moment she appeared on stage and her ethereal voice enchanted everyone. Her smile was infectious and a look around the audience confirmed she had us all under her spell. Andy Barlow’s energy was similarly contagious as he urged the crowd to move to the music. Jon Thorn (bass),Nikolaj Bjerre (drums), Kevin Davy (trumpet), and Quinta (viola and musical saw) completed the line-up.

But that was two months ago. Now, it was 6th December. The gig had been announced only a few weeks previously as an add-on to the dates of the European tour. I had bought a ticket the day I found out. And here it was, the day of the gig. Doors open at 18:30 and concert at 20:00. Funkhaus is not an easy venue to reach from my house – Ubahn, Sbahn, and tram – but it was certainly worth it. I aimed to arrive at just after 6pm – but a missed connection for the tram resulted in a slight delay and I got there 20 minutes later than intended. I was third in the queue. Third. The doors had not yet opened. When they finally did, we dedicated few (by that time around 10 people) found we could not go straight into the concert hall, but would have to wait until just before 8pm before entering. No matter. Somewhat bizarrely, Andy Barlow and some of the band were finishing dinner at a long table in the reception area. I grabbed a beer (25cl beer – €3 – wtf?) and sat down to wait. More people arrived and the reception area started to fill up. I decided I would stand and wait by the stairs to the concert hall in order to secure a good place. Around 7:45pm we were allowed up. Steps taken two at a time, a swift turn to the right, and I was in. Straight to the front row, and centre. Perfect positioning.

The concert hall at Funkhaus is incredible. The band were set up to play on the lowest part of the hall, with wooden steps up from there on three sides. As the hall filled, people sat on the steps to wait. Further back, people were standing. At around 8:30 the band made their way to the stage with cheers from the audience. Some kind of peer pressure forced everyone who was seated to remain so. We listened and moved to the beat in our seated position. At the end of the first song Lou looked around and noted that everyone at the back was dancing away and here we were at the front sitting down. She invited us to stand. I was one of the first up, but soon the others followed suit and the concert progressed. Same format as before, same running order. Same enchanting smile. Same energy. Same incredible performance. But this time, Lou was in front of me – often, when not moving around the stage, looking directly at me as she sang.

It could have been my own private performance. I suspended my disbelief and had no doubt she was telling me that we fall in love. Why would I believe otherwise?

And when she sang “As satellites go by”, I was sure she was right that we are “stars’  reflections, tiny sparks in one great velvet sky” and as she told me we were “perfect in our imperfection”, I could not help but think that Lou Rhodes has none.

Two brilliant gigs just over 2 months apart in two very different Berlin venues. Next time, I don’t know where it will be, but I will be there – front row, centre.

 

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