Wake up on a Monday morning to the taste of croissant pistache in Paris, France and then by nightfall find yourself 500 miles away in Leeds, England tucking into some Yorkshire pies. Spiral Stairs are living the rock’n’roll dream and absolutely loving it.
Scott Kannberg (Mr Spiral Stairs himself on guitar and vocals), Tim Regan (guitar), Matt Harris (bass), and Larry Bergin (drums) are out on the road and having a blast. Having already travelled through Norway, Denmark, Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Holland and France, tonight the four musicians find themselves in the basement room of this rather splendid café/restaurant/self-proclaimed dive bar/arts space/and music venue in west Leeds playing to a warm and receptive crowd.
Fifteen songs into their expansive set, Scott Kannberg says “we didn’t think you’d stick around this long.” He does seem both genuinely surprised and absolutely delighted that we have done. And the simple reason that we are still here is because it has been bloody marvellous.
Fifteen songs earlier, Scott Kannberg had posed the purely rhetorical question “do you wanna be hypnotised?” before lighting the touchpaper of ‘Hyp-No-Tized’ from Spiral Stairs’ third solo album, We Wanna Be Hyp-No-Tized. It is a suitably incendiary start. The four musicians quickly shift through the gears as Kannberg leads his band off on an epic road trip that passes many staging posts on the Californian’s illustrious 30 year recording career.
Four songs in and the familiar buzz-saw guitar introduction reacquaints us with ‘Two States’. Taken from Pavement’s debut album Slanted and Enchanted it also reminds us, lest we should have somehow forgotten, that Scott Kannberg was (and, of course, still is given their reunion next year to celebrate their 30th anniversary) a founding member and guitarist with that seminal 90’s indie band. Its glorious refrain of “Forty million daggers” seems to anticipate the following song, ‘Emoshuns’, a song drawn from Spiral Stairs’ second album Doris & The Daggers.
‘Caught In The Rain’ highlights the third dimension of Scott Kannberg’s rich musical history, that of Preston School of Industry a band he formed in 1999 following the initial cessation of Pavement and one which went on to release an EP and a couple of albums in the early years of this millennium.
All three principal musical elements of Scott Kannberg’s creative life – be it Pavement, Preston School of Industry or Spiral Stairs – are all connected by his ear for a great tune and an unerring ability not to take himself too seriously. He dedicates ‘Borderline’ to Bruce Springsteen on the occasion of his 70th birthday and with its rock-solid rhythm and crunching guitar riff it is a song of which The Boss would most surely have been proud.
Two brilliant covers – first a blistering take on Roxy Music’s ‘Flesh and Blood’ followed swiftly by an equally thunderous interpretation of Nick Lowe’s rare B-side ‘Truth Drug’ – merge naturally with ‘Painted Soldiers’, a song Kannberg tells us that Pavement never played live. It all makes for an evening full of lovely surprises and some unbelievably great songs.
Photos: Simon Godley