Lights up ahead and the devils in the doorway

Martin and James – Knust, Hamburg, Mai 10th 2011

Martin and James create music that I immediately fell in love with. After seeing them three times as a support act last year, I could hardly wait for their first headline show. I was curious what they would do if they were not limited to playing only 30 minutes. I was also a little bit scared as to how they would work with a band as opposed to performing acoustically. I needn’t have worried, it was beautiful!

I arrived at the Knust in time for the doors to open and was surprised that I was not the only one. I keep thinking that Martin and James are some sort of inside tip nobody knows about, but apparently people have caught on. Still, it was and easy front row.

I didn’t count on them bringing a support act, but they did. At 9 p.m. Oh Napoleon started playing. Female vocals plus guitar and keyboards. Nice music, very fitting for the occasion. They did a good job warming us up for what was about to come.

Martin and James appeared at 10:00 p.m., solo at first. They greeted us, asked how we were doing and started with ‘She’s light guiding’ off their first EP ‘Bad Dream’ and the first song I had ever heard them sing. It was a great start, allowing me to fall right into the music. ‘Turn it up’ was next and before anyone could start wondering about the drum kit set up behind them, they told us they’d perform a few songs acoustically before bringing out the band. Many people in the audience cheered when they asked if we had seen them before. James explained that we were used to seeing them “naturally” just with their guitars, but that they had brought a band this time to rock out a bit more.

The audience was good, very into it. There was not all that much singing along, but with every song being introduced at least a few people cheered. Judging by the smiles on Martin and James’ faces, it made them happy we knew the songs already. ‘Maybe it’s time’ and the beautiful ‘Lay it down’ ended the acoustic set and they brought out their bassist and drummer.

Now it was time for songs from their debut album. I still wasn’t sure the full band setting would work for me, even though the album tracks were played with a band too. Still, I love the pureness and simplicity of just Martin and James’ beautiful voices that harmonize so well with each other and their guitar playing. I felt I didn’t need more than that and was afraid adding more musicians would take something away from the simple beauty of their performance.

However, all my worries faded the moment the band had finished ‘Wrong directions’ and started ‘Wheels’– it worked beautifully and by the time the song was over I had a huge smile on my face. Next, Martin introduced ‘Waiting’ as being co written by Travis’s Fran Healy, „a famous Scottish singer who also lives in Berlin“. They got a bit chattier then, James telling us how people found it “cute” if he spoke German and after a while always told him „You can speak English“. It lead to laughter when he claimed that they could not even do that and we probably spoke better English than they did.

For ‘Beautiful’ James sat down at the piano for the first time that night while Martin teased that now they’d find out if the piano lessons he had been taking paid of. They continued with ‘Bad Dream’, the only song from the first EP that made it on the album. It was one of the highlights for me, since that EP got it all started. ‘I was blind’, ‘Tides’ and the beautiful ‘Live Wires’ finally lead to the song I had been waiting for, ‘Crashing into Love’. They explained it was their attempt at writing a rock song and how they wrote many slow ones after that, but kept this one from the time they wanted to become rock stars. For reasons I cannot explain, this song has a special magic for me, no matter if it is the rough acoustic version from their living room (that can be found on youTube), the more polished album version or the rocking and energetic live version we got to hear that night. I can never get enough of it and if there was a rewind button for concerts, I would have used it right then and there.

The second acoustic set of the night stated with ‘Broken Sword’ a song they wrote when they were teenagers and kept it, because it was close to their hearts. They also claimed it was their saddest song, joking about how many of their lyrics were actually sad. Martin was on the piano for that. ‘I have to fall’ was announced as “slightly more upbeat”. The music certainly is and the timbale sound had us clapping along which continued into the cover version of Supertramp’s ‘Give a little bit’. ‘Little bits of Light’ slowed the set down a little bit, followed by ‘All over the news’ and finally ‘Somebody’ with James again on the piano as the last song.

For the encores they brought our ‘Devils in the doorway’, another one of my favorites (also from the first EP). It was introduced as being about Glasgow and scary places you have to walk by after work at night. It worked well with the band too. With ‘You’re alive’ the night ended after 90 minutes full of beautiful music and much power. It must have been hot on stage, they were sweating, but also they clearly enjoyed it and so did the audience. 🙂

I thanked them both after the gig and told them I’d see them in Bielefeld. Martin agreed with me that the though of the band was a bit scary, but he felt that a full set was too much to play just acoustically and just like me he thought it worked well. Next stop: Bielefeld tonight!


She’s light guiding
Turn it up
Maybe it’s time
Lay this down

(full band:)
Wrong directions
Bad Dream
I was blind
Live Wires
Crashing into Love

Broken Sword
I have to fall
Give a little bit
Little bits of Light
All over the news

Encore (full band):
Devils in the doorway
You’re alive

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