"I always thought London didn't give a fuck," claimed the stunned David Berman at ULU last night, as he stood aghast before the adoring crowd. He couldn't have been more mistaken. Although his most recent albums have seen accompanying tours Berman has a reputation of not playing by the rules when it comes to promotion - so when his band of Silver Jews roll into town you'd be a fool to miss them, as who knows when they'll return again. Always up for a challenge, Berman had a tough job in taking the stage after the support act Monotonix. Thrash metal from Tel Aviv is tricky at the best of times, but when the front man and drummer take their set-up marauding around the venue, barging into the crowd, topless and sweaty and screaming with vein busting ferocity, you've got to wonder how the Jews are going to follow this.
With glorious ease was the answer to that question as the first note rang out and the quietly confident Berman, dressed up to the nines, approached the mic. With the glamorous Cassie Berman at his right and twin guitars either side, the band lifted the roof from the start with old favorites Random Rules and Smith & Jones encouraging near euphoria from the fans. "I've got it all arranged," claimed Berman, "I'm gonna play an old one then a new one then an old one and so on," and with the exceptional musical accompaniment old and new melted into one sound. Silver Jews have always been a lyrics band with the actual music coming in second place in order of importance, but last night they morphed into such an impressive whole, raising the sound to a fuller and richer scale. On the lengthened musical end to Random Rules Berman walked around surveying each individual performance of his band like a school teacher. And things like this were another unexpected highlight. Having met Berman a few weeks ago I found him to be a warm and yet slightly reserved character who had only recently become acquainted with his fan base, but on stage he grows in confidence carrying himself like a Nashville Jarvis Cocker.
Although it was quite something to hear some of my favorite Silver Jews moments played out live, including some early gems like Trains Across The Sea, it was the new songs that really shone last night. Aloyisius, Bluegrass Drummer came storming out with a wonderfully brisk tempo and the playful San Francisco B.C. is obviously a band favorite being introduced by Berman "I hear you guys like your Fake Tales Of San Francisco over here, well we've got one of our own." Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea has many highlights, but Suffering Jukebox has to be one of the finest and it lived up to itself last night as did the fantastic Strange Victory, Strange Defeat. Both these songs benefit greatly from Cassie Berman's accompanying vocals and her presence on stage makes the whole show truly memorable. It's not often that you get a husband and wife partnership so lovingly and yet understatedly played out on stage and on the songs where Mr and Mrs Tennessee acknowledged each others presence, it was genuinely touching and really enhanced the songs and words being sung. "You're the only Tennessee," sang Berman adoringly to the woman at his side and the new album closer We Could Be Looking For The Same Thing took on new sweetness played out by this couple. "People don't write songs like that anymore," claimed Berman, damn right.
This show completes the trio of Silver Jews treats this week following the new record and the interview and hopefully clears up any misgivings Berman might have had concerning his bands place in London's heart. We give a shit DCB so don't be a stranger.