Star rating - 9/10
"Hello Manchester. Any questions?" was John Bramwell's opening line for the first of two celebratory homecoming gigs for I Am Kloot at The Ritz last night. And that typifies their style - friendly, approachable, with a wickedly dry sense of humour. They have gathered around them a fiercely loyal band of followers during the past decade of touring, and producing six acclaimed studio albums. So much so that the older stalwarts amongst the crowd feel that they somehow own a piece of them. I read a very amusing Facebook post after this gig by a devotee who was absolutely disgusted that they 'yet again' failed to perform a beloved song, Even the Stars, which they have not yet committed to an album. And this sense of being personally connected, and even let down by, the band is a sign of how intimate the relationship has become.
But I can assure you I, and the vast majority of the packed Ritz, felt only adulation and warmth at another captivating, entertaining, and awesome live performance by this talented and perennially understated band. This tour is to showcase their new album Let It All In, which is a follow up to their Mercury nominated Sky At Night, both with Elbow's Craig Potter and Guy Garvey's talented fingers all over their production. And once again there are some lovely songs in this collection, many of which got a live outing here. Shoeless is an enchanting song about Bramwell's young daughter walking carefree along a beach, with waves caressing her feet. And These Days Are Mine also has a happier feel with optimism about the future and 'just one smile taking up all my time'. If we didn't know him better we would suspect that JB is just a little bit happy with his lot - an astonishing thought! The brilliant Let Them All In is a particular gem amongst the great new songs, and was one of the highlights of this set.
But have no fear, many superb old favourites were also there to delight the fans. From Your Favourite Sky, and The Same Deep Water As Me, complete with poignant trumpet solo, amongst my personal favourites. The now standard JB solo section whilst his band mates got their nicotine fix, was also beautiful. Astray has one of my favourite Bramwell lyrics (which is saying much as he is a lyrical literary genius) - 'the bold raging flame of your heart is making me stay'. Quite beautiful.
And there were still songs about drinking and disaster, although dare I say, not quite as many as there used to be. And the two now anthemic, much loved, numbers which have become sing-a-long love- ins which are Twist and Proof were of course there. Now if they had been excluded you very well might have had a riot on your hands.
IAK seemed to enjoy this hometown night as much as the crowd did, and appreciatively clapped the audience at the end as much as they themselves were applauded - for a great night, and for a decade of brilliantly perceptive songs, performed in an accomplished and honest way so that they seep into your core. Like the Manchester rain... Each new album is hailed as the one which will lead to a breakthrough into the promised land of commercial success for IAK. It never quite happens, and to be honest I am not sure I would really want it to. The thought of these beautiful ballads about drinking and disaster, with occasional new strains of happiness also creeping in, being played in arenas fills me with horror.