Arab Strap – live review

The Cavern, 13th November 2005


“Phone me tonight when you’re pissed. Just to tell me that I’m missed. Tell me you want me in your cunt. Tell me you’re not sure what you want. I tried to tell you, I made it clear. Nothing could make me not want you here. Phone me tomorrow when you’re sober. Just to tell me it’s all over. Tell me I’m not wanted in your bed. Remember one thing you haven’t said. I tried to tell you, I tried to say. I never wanted it to end this way.”


“So… will there be any dancing tonight?  Joy?  Merriment?” 


A knowing chuckle from the crowd acknowledges Aidan Moffatt’s laconic irony, despite a significant proportion of the audience attending on the strength of ‘the Snow Patrol association’.  (Moffatt has collaborated with The Reindeer Section, Gary Lightbody’s side project.)  But tonight this is an utterly frank, desolate version of the tales only touched upon by their Scottish counterparts.


Arab Strap find it difficult to lie.  So they tell the brutal, heart-blending truth.  About bitter jealousy, lost love, fear of love, and fucking.  It’s the unforgiving honestly that mesmerises the Cavern, not the got-to-go-to-work-tomorrow Sunday night despondency that often, on the seventh day, holds the place hushed.


Everything you were terrified to admit to yourself is reeled off in Moffatt’s trademark baritone Scottish brogue, and underlain by Malcolm Middleton’s fragile but biting guitar-work.  You imagine Moffatt would be piss-stained and staggering, with brown ale in hand.  But he’s been through this before; the next few months see the duo, and their cello-comprising backing band, tour all of the UK and most of Europe.  Accounts of one man’s erection problems willingly inflicted on the toilet venue masses. 


Exeter hasn’t benefited from Arab Strap’s cutting wisdom since, we are informed, 1999, and the Cavern appreciates the effort.  But was there any ‘merriment’?  Like fuck there was.


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