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A Magazine for Sheffield
Live / stage review

Robbie Thompson & R.Loomes, Bishops' House, 20 September

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Everyone has visited a place like Bishops' House before. It's a small museum in an old Tudor house, timber-framed, thick-walled and fitted out with period decor. There's a table set with artificial food standing behind a display of miscellaneous historical artefacts. It's also a surreal venue for a gig.

First up on the night was solo artist R.Loomes. The opening two tracks cast a heavy feeling of desolation. Grungy, metal guitar chords under the plangent lyrics of 'Magnolia' chipped away at the close silence of the 30-capacity room. At some point the mood was lifted with the more sanguine folky tones of 'The Mind Wanders / The Flesh Follows' and 'Metal Kidney'. The performance was mysteriously moving and I soon stopped thinking about the absurdity of the gig's location.

bleak, realist lyrics were delivered reassuringly

Sheffield-based solo artist and Buffalo Skinners band member Robbie Thompson stepped up next. Hearing the unreleased track 'Albert Camus Blues' was a big highlight of the night. Thompson explained that the message behind it was to do with finding comfort in shared existential confusion. The track's twinkly guitar chords plated up this heartwarming feeling, getting all carried away with themselves in short bursts of ecstasy. It was a pleasant little break from the stripped-back sound of the night.

The main event of the gig was the launch of Thompson's new single, 'Above Us All the Devil Is Laughing', which is out now on local label Pigeon Hands. Its bleak, realist lyrics were delivered reassuringly with Thompson's signature stolid charm.

The track is all about accepting that the human condition is ultimately doomed, that we can instead draw meaning and compassion from life's day-to-day battles. Thompson's nonchalant singing voice would often turn discordant, though, from the explosive, frustrated utterance of 'above'. Recognising the devil's omnipotence is no easy task.

Marek Nowicki

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