It's shambolic, at times, even incompetent and to be honest, we may as well not even be here.

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London Highbury Upstairs at the Garage

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London Highbury Upstairs at the Garage

It’s more like a social experiment than a traditional gig. Watching [a]Woodbine[/a] play live is like sitting through a band during one of their more agonising rehearsals. It’s shambolic, at times, even incompetent and to be honest, we may as well not even be here.

Not that this is a particularly bad thing – in fact tonight is all the more captivating for it. [a]Woodbine[/a] produce the kind of cracked alternative country more suited to the sprawling American plains than the monochrome suburbs of the Black Country where they choose to live.

Like the shy kid in class, red-headed vocalist Susan Dillane utters little more than a handful of words for the entire show. Instead she focuses intently at the base of her microphone stand, providing wispy, airless vocals over the most skeletal of instrumentation.

Everything is so fragile it could shatter given the even gentlest of encouragement. And it almost does. Future single ‘Neskwik’ is an anaemic twin to its studio counterpart, while ‘Mound Of Venus’ stutters and starts all over the place. By the time the band have staggered through a charming version of closing song ‘Complete Control’, Graeme Swindon‘s acoustic guitar is left with just four corroded strings hanging from it.

In the world of Woodbine, the music is everything. Feel free to give them your heart, but just don’t expect them to notice.