The band preview eagerly awaited new LP 'Hot Shots: Part II' in Northern Ireland...
It’s difficult to know if the The Beta Band are fans of Track and Field. Because, frankly, given their propensity to splutter at the starter’s gun, The Beta Band of yore would be showered, changed and on their way home by the time the medals were handed out. After decimating all-comers in the trials and heats, once it came to the big night there would be something about the floodlights and the noise of the crowd that would put them off kilter. They wouldn’t stand a chance.
Tonight though things are different.
The last time The Beta Band played Belfast due to a promotional mix-up, something like 29 people showed up. The group, though, were amazing. And Mason doesn’t let us forget (‘You were all in fucking bed,’ he tells us). In fact, he keeps returning to the subject, each time a song hits a blissful crescendo or when the full house threaten to take the roof off the venue. It’s almost as if the last Belfast gig represented everything that was equal parts thrilling and maddening about the days of ‘The Three EPS’- how total triumph never strayed too far away from utter shambles. And the group seem intent to show that nowadays they can paint the ceilings gold without having to worry that the stepladder is going to collapse. It’s noticeable that on the video screen behind the stage the phrase ‘Try Harder’ is intermittently flashing.
So they got the Khmer Rouge on the ass of their debut album. There isn’t a trace of it. It might as well not have happened.
Instead they’ve polished up prize heirlooms like ‘Inner Meet Me’ and ‘Dry the Rain’, and given others like ‘Dr Baker’ (formerly a plaintive ballad, now amped-up monster with melodica and harpsichord interludes) a tip-to-toe service.
Best of all, the new stuff from ‘Hot Shots: Part II’ is uniformly ace. Scuppered single ‘Squares’ is all moody grandeur and spooky grace, whereas the I Monster track this unfortunately shares a sample with is quirky and fluffy. ‘Life’ sounds like John Squire and Ian Brown finding themselves on the set of ‘The Omen’- their hands should be covering their eyes, but they can’t quite stop waving them in the air. ‘Al Sharp’ should give you some indication as to what a monastery of Gregorian monks would make of ‘Kid A’.
The stoned busker bent that maimed the debut LP has been thankfully exorcised, replaced by a much more focused melodic approach. Even when a song like ‘Human Being’ seems to be lopping around pleasant enough, a newfound discipline seems to arrive, and off it suddenly shoots, confident in its new destination.
‘She’s The One’ brings things to an end – Steve whacking not so much a tambourine as a personalised bin lid.
They’re ready, they’re (fingers-crossed) steady, now, in their own time, watch them go.