Forget the coffee shops, this San Franciscan folk-punk duo are the most intoxicating thing in Amsterdam tonight
It could partly be down to the hazy delights of the local delicacies, but tonight NME doesn’t half enjoy the sound of Two Gallants tuning up. For five blissful minutes after the duo amble onstage, single guitar notes echo occasionally around the room, cymbals are gently brushed until slowly – very slowly – the sound mutates into a deathly, funeral-paced blues. By the time this becomes recognisable as ‘Steady Rollin’’, Amsterdam is finally introduced to Adam Stephenson’s throat-shredding rasp and the Paradiso is locked in, entranced. It may not be the most instant impression ever made, but man, is it effective.
See, as a live act, San Franciso’s Two Gallants are an entirely different, infinitely superior proposition. They may already be tired of the lazy White Stripes comparisons (being a blues-folk two-piece and all), but one thing this pair definitely do have in common with Jack’n’Meg is a healthy disregard for the established structures of their songs. Often tonight, Adam and Tyson are off, twisting their creations into new shapes. ‘Long Summer Day’ is strung out way beyond its familiar confines, while the ferocious, howlin’ wolf of a single that is ‘Las Cruces Jail’ is led through time changes that make Adam’s screeched verses more striking still. And that’s before he even gets to the whistling solo.
Really though, this unwillingness to simply reproduce is where the vague similarity to Detroit’s finest ends. For starters, Tyson Vogel certainly doesn’t subscribe to Meg White’s, erm, ‘stripped down’ school of drumming. Rather, he compensates for his band’s lack of numbers with astonishing power, at one point playing with two sticks in one hand, a tambourine in the other. Tonight, we see that Two Gallants are as much a punk band as a folk-rock duo, as intrinsically linked to Led Zeppelin as they are to Woody Guthrie and Johnny Cash.
“Here’s another real cheery song,” smirks Adam in a rare moment of between-song chat, before a stunning ‘Linger On’. His sarcasm, as with many of his intricate, story tellin’ lyrics, may not quite make it through the language barrier, but the look in his eyes is universal. During the encore of ‘Waves Of Grain’ he appears on the verge of losing himself totally, his rage barely contained, his pretty eyes popping out of his head. The reference points may all be rooted in a far off land, but what is clear is that these are sad and lonely songs being sung by a man who has clearly experienced both of these emotions in droves.
Barely 20 minutes after coming offstage and Tyson and Adam are in their van, off to Paris for a 9am radio session before continuing on to Brussels for another show. They may, like some of their heroes, be set on doing things the hard way, but tonight Two Gallants made many new friends. Only a fool would bet against them making a few more tomorrow.