The evening started with the wonderfully gentle tones of singer songwriter Roxanne de Bastion, who performed a solo acoustic set taking much of the material from her album 'Heirlooms & Hearsay'. Roxanne's voice is warmly reminiscent of Sarah Cracknell of St Etienne, and rounded off her lilting, folk tinged, acoustic pop songs perfectly.
'Wasteland', a song about her home city of Berlin, and how a section of the wall was removed to make way for a hotel, and the particularly poignant 'Run', a song about the singer's grandfather and more widely, people whose lives are affected by forces beyond their control, something that feels very relevant in this day and age.
Part way through the set there was a change of instrument to piano, before switching back to guitar, to finish off with a rousing acoustic 'punk' track which involved a small amount of (very willing) audience participation. It was also great to see her wearing her trademark red boots that have played an integral part of her live performance for many years (and hopefully many more to come)...
Around 9pm, Lambchop step on stage. Anyone hoping to see/hear the more traditional, larger, Lambchop line up might have been a tad disappointed. Instead, Kurt Wagner, in his trademark thick rimmed glasses and trucker cap, handles vocals, electronics, glitches and guitar and is joined by Tony Crow on baby grand piano and Matt Swanson on bass guitar.
The first half of the set, including 'The Hustle', the first single from the critically acclaimed album 'Flotus', flows from song to song with very little time between each and even less talking.
The lucky people who had gathered at the Phoenix (approx. 150 – 200 at a guestimate) were treated to mesmerising, soulful grooves, with the band running like a well oiled machine, and each instrument working perfectly together yet having the space to seemingly trundle off on their own. Even Wagner was breaking out a few moves during a few songs as the crowd swayed and nodded along.
There is a short interlude part way through, and the band chat about their 'extensive' knowledge of Exeter and Tony Crow's jokes begin.
The songs continue at a more relaxed pace with more chat between them (and more jokes, this time about Carol and her lazy eye). Flotus' looped beats, glitches and processed vocals mesh beautifully with Wagner's lush, rhythmic guitar, Crow's twinkling piano and Swanson's groove drenched intricate bass lines, altogether washing over the audience.
When it gets to the end of the show Kurt tells us that, if we are good, they will come back and do more songs. True to his word they take to the stage for two more and in the last, they are joined on stage by Roxanne, who shares vocals with Wagner perfectly.
To see an act with such a high standard of musicianship on a Wednesday evening in Exeter was a real treat for everyone in attendance, to see two really was above and beyond the call of duty!
Review by Gareth Conway
Photography by Rhodri Cooper