Mellah at the Lexington
Mellah, as an outfit, is unique. The band members provide an eclectic set of instruments, musical styles, highs, lows and haircuts. Keyboards and electronic harmonicas, luscious golden manes and soot-black fringes. The group has it all and now finds itself headlining a BBC Introducing night on the upstairs stage of The Lexington.
The ensemble – led by enigmatic frontman Liam Ramsden – take to the stage not with a bang but a howl in the form of Round. Crisp vocals cut through the audience like an icy breeze, their haunting melody lulling the crowd into a hushed reverie. The second song, Nada, is pacier, marked out by the first of several glorious electronic harmonica solos. These fan-favourites are followed by a new track: Death, Pillage, Plunder. A tinkling synth keyboard intro is buoyed up by smooth guitar, forming a surprisingly upbeat tempo.
It is at this point, however, that the energy in the room begins to sag. The odd technical hitch and clunky transition inhibit the flow from song to song while the relaxed, somewhat sleepy drawl from the lead singer starts to make one question whether he is actually a man of quiet, bubbling intensity or just in need of a good nap and a Nescafé Gold. The band’s fourth track, What It Is, offers up a rumbling bass complete with lyrics of palpable anger and injustice. However, what should be a rousing call to arms fails to ignite and is further undercut by the plodding melody of the follow-up tune, Numb. A night that opened with such spark threatens to remain a smoulder.
Luckily, Mellah find their groove in the second half, following this slow opening with a thrilling final set of songs. During Paseo, Ramsden becomes clearer, delivering the darkly funny lyrics with an ironic aplomb accompanied by his own jangling guitar riffs. Cigarette Lighter reinforces the group’s overt politicism before another breakneck tone-change arrives in a dreamlike, wistfully poetic follow-up containing lyrics of such intricate surrealism they’d make Pablo Neruda choke on his morning coffee. The final number, Pretty Blue, is an echoing whirlwind of synth and sultry guitar forming a grungy and infectious love ballad. As Ramsden and co strike the final chords, the crowd are utterly and undeniably enthralled.
Ultimately, Mellah’s low-energy start is made up for by a galvanising finale in a set marked by moments of unique, transcendent awesomeness.
Photo: Joe Magowan
For further information and future events visit Mellah’s website here.
Watch the video for Round here: