North Atlantic Oscillation showcase at The Tabernacle
One of the common problems with a band performing at a label showcase is that it is more than likely the crowd will not have turned out to see a specific band.
With a band like North Atlantic Oscillation, this is a major problem as their sound is not particularly accessible, particularly in the context of a live show. Accordingly, their performance at The Tabernacle on Wednesday was met with a sparse sprinkling of crowd members, almost timidly nodding their heads as best they could to the discordant sounds of the Scottish quintet.
North Atlantic Oscillation just could not seem to replicate their complex sound on stage: vocal harmonization was lost amongst guitar feedback, the three guitars bled into one another, and the synthesisers merely kept the songs sounding busy instead of multi-layered.
All these issues served to make them sound like The Mars Volta – light but without the requisite fury, passion and innovation. The show would have been vastly improved had the band streamlined the performance set up: with five musicians, three guitars, three synths, two keyboards, two laptops, one bass, one drum kit and a set of bongos, the boys from Edinburgh may have been over-doing it.
The band managed to demonstrate moments of lustre, which is what makes their studio work good. But even with the occasional stand-out vocal harmonisation and powerful guitar break, the overall atmosphere in the crowd descended from polite toe-tapping to a point where large (relatively speaking, in terms of the small audience) swathes of the crowd were having full-on discussions rather than giving any indication of wanting to hear the band.
North Atlantic Oscillation were unlucky as aspects of the gig were set against them from the start. For example, the acoustics in The Tabernacle were not conducive for a band with such a complex sound. One also got the feeling that there was a negative spiral in the lack of atmosphere which meant the band couldn’t get into the swing of things. The venue was obscenely hot, even when the crowd was less than half-full – which of course was not the band’s fault but may have contributed to the lack-lustre response from the crowd. It was almost certainly not their best performance in general, but it would be interesting to see how they would perform in more favorable circumstances. Although they should probably think about a reformation for the live performances, and possibly lose an instrument or two, to make the sound less chaotic overall.
Photos: Laramie Shubber